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A lit lamp, a prayer bead, and a Bible in front of a series of Christian Orthodox icons.

Eastern Orthodox Christmas

Рождество Христово (RU) ∼ Різдво Христове (UK) ∼ Božić (SR)

The notion of Christmas in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox faith

Upcoming event
2021
Celebrated in
Religious group
Christianity
Cross, principal symbol of Christianity.

Every year, millions of Orthodox Christians coming from countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Montenegro, Moldova, Serbia, North Macedonia, Egypt, and Ethiopia observe the Christmas celebration on the 7th of January instead of the 25th of December. This is due to the fact that a series of Orthodox Churches follow the traditional Julian Calendar instead of the Revised Julian Calendar (a combination of Julian and Gregorian) followed by other Orthodoxes (Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians) or the Gregorian Calendar followed by the denominations of Western Christianity.

Julian Calendar vs Gregorian Calendar

Practically all churches from the various Christian fractions agree on celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December but according to the old traditional Julian Calendar created by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, this date falls 13 days after the 25th of December determined by the Gregorian Calendar introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582 AD. Thus, the official Christmas celebrations of many Orthodoxes begin on the evening of the 6th of January, a date that marks the Christmas Eve on the Julian Calendar.

Similarly to other denominations, Christmas is considered as one of the most significant festivities for the orthodox Christians as well. It signifies the arrival of Jesus Christ to the Earth and the initiation of God’s plan to save and release humanity from sin. The occasion is observed through a series of distinctive rituals, devout ceremonies and an esoteric notion that characterizes the Orthodox faith. Extended fasting periods, long church masses, and festive food are both in Russian, Slavic, and Oriental traditions.

Celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January

A trip to one of the Orthodox countries that celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January offers a unique opportunity to explore the role and the status of religion in the contemporary societal context as well as the strong and deep roots of faith even in cultures which were historically oppressed by atheist regimes.