What is Orthodox Christmas and how is it celebrated?

Greek Orthodox clergy

The Epiphany celebrated here marks the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist and falls on the 12th and last day of Orthodox Christmas. (Image: Cemal Yurttas/dia images via Getty Images)

Merry Christmas… again!

If you just have After taking down your Twelfth Night decorations and actually looking forward to getting back to some normalcy, we are sad to announce that Christmas is back. Type of.

Some countries celebrate Orthodox Christmas today, January 7th.

Here’s what it all means and why it’s celebrated…

What is Orthodox Christmas and why is it celebrated on January 7th?

Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or about January 7 each year to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ as described in the Christian Bible.

The discrepancy in the dates has everything to do with which calendar countries are followed around the world.

In Britain we follow the new Gregorian calendar, but some countries still follow the old Julian calendar, created by Julius Caesar in 35 AD, for religious festivals.

People celebrating orthodox Christmas

Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in 16 countries (Image: Cemal Yurttas/ dia images via Getty Images)

The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar after Pope Gregory of Rome developed it in 1582.

The Julian calendar miscalculated the length of a solar year, creating a discrepancy of 11 minutes each year that built up over time and caused it to become out of sync.

However, while the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar, many countries retained the dates of the historic Julian calendar to mark certain religious festivals including Christmas.

Which countries celebrate Orthodox Christmas?

There are 16 countries around the world that celebrate Christmas Day in January.

Many of these are in the Soviet bloc, the Middle East and parts of Europe.

They include:

  • Russia
  • Ethiopia
  • Greece
  • Serbia
  • Eritrea
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Moldova
  • Ukraine
  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria.

How is Orthodox Christmas celebrated?

Christmas is not only celebrated on a different day in these countries, but also celebrated in different ways.

In Serbia, the day is spent looking for an oak branch to be burned during the Christmas dinner. Meanwhile, in Belarus, people eat pancakes and fish on a straw table, and in Montenegro, during dinner, a loaf of bread is broken with a coin, with good luck for the person who receives the coin.

Followers of the faith ‘save’ a wooden cross during Epiphany service in Istanbul (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)
Next year if you don’t fancy turkey… (Picture: Getty)

Those in Russia eat 12 courses on Christmas Eve – including beetroot soup, fish and stuffed cabbage – to pay tribute to the 12 apostles, while in Kazakhstan there is a midnight liturgy at Almaty Cathedral.

People in Macedonia chop an oak trunk in three on Christmas Eve to represent the Holy Trinity, and in Ethiopia men play a game called ganna with a curved stick and wooden ball and eat a spicy meat stew called ‘wat’.

A goat is usually slaughtered and eaten in Eritrea, while Christians in Egypt feast on meat, eggs and butter on Christmas Eve after a long fast from November 25th. In Romania, a pig is slaughtered as a Christmas meal.

And in Greece, a sprig of basil is wrapped around a cross and placed in water, while other countries celebrate Christmas similar to Britain with a Christmas tree and blessings.

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https://metro.co.uk/2023/01/07/what-is-orthodox-christmas-and-how-is-it-celebrated-18055150/ What is Orthodox Christmas and how is it celebrated?

Justin Scacco

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