Orthodox Christmas: January’s Holy Holiday

Orthodox Christmas: January’s Holy Holiday

С Рождеством (S Rozhdyestvom)! Merry Christmas!

Thirteen days after Christmas in the West, Orthodox Christians celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. It’s a holiday celebrated by millions around the world, including in many MIR destinations like Russia, the Baltics, Balkans, and Eastern Europe.

Why the difference in dates? The Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar (which traces back to Julius Caesar in 45 BC), while the Gregorian calendar is used in the West.

Once the heart of communism, Moscow's Red Square is decked out in Christmas decorations <br>Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Once the heart of communism, Moscow’s Red Square is decked out in Christmas decorations
Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Celebrating, But DifferentlyOrthodox Christians celebrate their January Christmas in different ways, beginning with Advent. For them, it’s a time to fast and do kind deeds for 40 days. Christmas celebrations start on Christmas Eve morning, as the devout read passages from the Bible.

The day continues quietly in reflection, with so-called “Nativity fasting” until sunset. When the first star appears in the evening sky, Orthodox Christians finally break their fast with a “Holy Night” supper. Christmas Day is a time for more church services throughout the day. The holiday’s emphasis is on the holiness of the day, rather than secular traditions like decorating trees and giving gifts. In Russia, New Year’s Eve, rather than Christmas Day, is the time for that.

С Рождеством! Merry Christmas!


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Top photo credit: Peter Guttman.  Candles take on special significance in the Orthodox Church, lighted to bring one closer to God and to warm one’s soul.

PUBLISHED: December 11, 2014

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