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Merry Christmas! Eastern Orthodox Christians Celebrate January 7th

Eastern Orthodox Christmas is observed January 7th in 2016 by the Eastern Orthodox Church: but why is there two Christmases in Christianity?

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On January 7th, 2016 followers of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church celebrate Eastern Orthodox Christmas, the holy day marking the birth of Jesus Christ. As followers of the “Western Church” – Roman Catholics and Protestant Christians – are wrapping up their Christmas festivities from December 25th, the Eastern Orthodox Church is just starting their revelry. So why are there two Christmases?

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Eastern Orthodox Christmas & The Great Schism

The differences between the Eastern Orthodox and the Western or Latin Church are theological, ecclesiastical, and geo-political stemming from the Great East-West Schism starting in 1054 C.E. However, the underlying cause for two separate dates for Christmas boils down to calendar each branch recognizes for calculating ecclesiastical holy days.

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The Western Church uses the Gregorian calendar which eventually established Christmas on December 25th. The Eastern Orthodox Church observes the Julian calendar, the predecessor for the Gregorian version. By the Julian calendar, which is determined differently mathematically and astronomically from the Gregorian calendar, January 7th equals December 25th.

Georgian Eastern Orthodox Christmas treeWikiCommons

WikiCommons A Georgian Christmas Tree, its design honoring the beard of St. Basil.

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The Evolution of Christmas

Homogenization of Christmas celebrations have occurred across the East-West division such as Christmas trees and the giving of gifts. Both traditions stress giving to poor through collection of alms and other donations. Eastern tradition, however, sees the Advent season as time to refocus on the miracle of Jesus’ birth.

Celebrating Eastern Orthodox Christmas

The weeks proceeding Orthodox Christmas is accompanied by fasting and abstaining from meat, much like the Lenten season. Christmas Eve is observed with Mass and special twelve course meals made without meat or milk. Then on Orthodox Christmas, Mass is celebrated and religious processions are held to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Moreover, various unique regional traditions take place including special foods, prayers, and rituals. Here’s just a few:

česnica: a Serbian bread which must be made from the first water drawn from a well or stream (called strong water) on Christmas morning.
Serbian Eastern Orthodox bread offerings WikiCommons

 

Young men jump into the Bosporus in Turkey, holding a wooden cross.  The dive symbolism the birth and baptism of Jesus
Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul Turkey WikiCommons

WikiCommons The Bosporus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

Ukrainian families dress in traditional garb and sing carols
Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas formal dress WikiCommons

Write to Kristen E. Strubberg at kstrubberg@tgnreview.com

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Kristen E. Strubberg is the Editor-in-Chief for TGNR. Kristen founded TGNR in 2013 - seeking to create a high quality platform for original, eclectic and substantive positive news journalism by attracting expert contributors in many varying subjects. Kristen also works as a clinical medical researcher in Cardiology, with an original background in Neuroscience. Her passion for science has translated to her science-fiction specialization, with her highly adept published insights into the best of sci-fi’s popular culture. Kristen has served as TGNR’s Editor-in-Chief since 2013.

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