Orthodox Christmas: January’s Holy Holiday
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.
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.
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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