Eastern Orthodox Christmas

January 05, 2019

7 January (in the modern, widely-used Gregorian calendar) marks the day many Orthodox Churches and Christians celebrate Christmas to commemorate the nativity (birth) of Jesus Christ – the Son of God.

This date accords with 25 December in the “Old Style” Julian calendar which many Orthodox Churches and Christians still use to observe their feast days and other religious events.

  • The two calendars are currently 13 days apart (due to the older Julian calendar having too many leap years – one every four years since early BC days, without exception) and will be 14 days apart from 1 March 2100.

Orthodox Christmas is traditionally preceded by:

  • a time of fasting (e.g. from meat for 40 days, and in some cases, eating nothing at all on Christmas Eve until the evening meal) 
  • preparation (e.g. of 12 significant meat-free dishes representing the 12 apostles), with the celebrations beginning from Christmas Day onward, and
  • in a tradition easier for enthusiasts in summery Adelaide to participate in than wintery Europe, jumping into a watercourse the day before Orthodox Christmas ('Epiphany') to recover a crucifix thrown into it by a priest, bringing blessings or good luck

Some Orthodox leaders believe it is a more spiritual occasion, the modern commercial focus of Christmas having swept past by 7 January.

In Australia, many migrant communities that continue to observe the traditions in the way they were honoured when they migrated from their origin countries, Orthodox Christmas remains significant  for Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Georgian, Macedonian, Moldovan, Montenegrin, Belarussian and Kazakh origin families.

Western Christianity (as well as some Eastern Churches, and the West in general) celebrate Christmas on 25 December (Gregorian calendar). Western influence is starting to push into the mother countries that celebrate Orthodox Christmas, creating for instance this intriguing national political stand-off over when to put up a Christmas Tree in Moldova.

Mark/celebrate this Orthodox Christmas by:

  • attending a traditional Orthodox Christmas mass or celebration to learn more about the festival
  • sharing or partaking in an Orthodox Christmas tradition
  • watching these clips on the Christmas and Christians of the Orthodox Church
  • reading further on the early, long and rich history of Christianity – Western, Orthodox and Oriental
  • understanding the differences and origins of the Julian and Gregorian (ie the two key civilisational) calendars, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, Christians and those that just love the tradition and spirit of Christmas.

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