Christmas is Over
Really? While most of the people believe that Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December worldwide, there’s more to it. For many of the people who fall under different Christian groups, Christmas is celebrated at different dates!
Interestingly, the Orthodox churches adhere to a different kind of calendar for celebrating their religious festivals that is different from that other people follow. Unlike the majority of people who celebrate Christmas in December, the Orthodox churches in countries like Ukraine, Russia, Jerusalem and Serbia mark the special day of ‘7th January’ as their holy Orthodox Christmas Day (This day is believed to be the 29th date of Tahsas according to the calendar that they follow).
As the name suggests, ‘The Julian calendar’ was designed by Julius Caesar. As per the calendar, the Orthodox Christmas Day falls on the 13th day of the “other” Christmas that is celebrated on the 25th of December every year. Accordingly, the countries that celebrate the Orthodox Christmas Day have a public holiday on 7th January, while the ones who celebrate it on 25th December do not.
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In A.D. 325, the first ecumenical conference was held by a team of few Christian bishops. The main agenda for the conference was to bring uniformity for the Easter holiday. It was decided that the Julian calendar would be chosen for this.
This troubled Pope Gregory XIII, due to which he designed the Gregorian calendar. As per this calendar, Christmas is celebrated on 25th December. However, the Orthodox Churches did not approve of this calendar and adhered to the Julian calendar. They rejected the Gregorian calendar and marked the holy festival of Christmas to be celebrated 13 days after 25th December, that is on the 7th of January.
In today’s day, over 39% of the total Christian population in the world are located in Russia. Among them, 85% decide to celebrate Christmas in January. Interestingly, there are a few of the countries like Romania, Greece and Cyprus that have revised their Julian calendar and thus, celebrate Christmas in December.
Other than these countries, the Orthodox countries that celebrate it on January 7 include:
The ‘Orthodox Christmas Day’ is celebrated with the same merry, frolic and symbols that are associated with 25th of December. Symbols such as gifts, Christmas trees and the wreaths are seen all over the streets of Russia, Ukraine and other countries that celebrate this day as their official Christmas day!
This pious festival is also one of the most important times in the lives of the Christians for offering their prayers and reflect on their deeds. Generally, it is characterised with a celebration that goes for over three days. On the morning of Christmas eve, people hold exclusive services in the Churches wherein, the Orthodox Christians are seen fasting as a tribute to the holy Christ.
On the contrary, there are also some countries where you can see people enjoying the ‘Holy Night Supper’ (a special Christian dinner that consists of 12 vegetarian dishes). And, just like the “other” Christmas that is celebrated on the 25th, everyone exchanges gifts with their loved ones, feast and then merrily return back to the Church.
It is believed that the Orthodox Christians don’t hog upon meat during this holy season of Christmas. As discussed above, there is a meal of 12-vegan dishes for them. You would be intrigued to know that there is a parallel between the 12 dishes and the apostles that each of those dishes represents.
Now, these dishes can vary based on the region you are in. However, most of them will be something similar to herring, dried fruit compote, sauerkraut (cabbage), perogies (dumplings) and red borscht.
The Orthodox Christians are firm devotees who have fixed customs and traditions associated with everything. Even setting up the Christmas table comes with some of their own beliefs! The cloth that is used to set up the table is a white table cloth that is embroidered. They believe that this is the cloth in which baby Jesus had been wrapped.
Similarly, people also make use of straws to adore the table with. This symbolises the same stable where the birth of Jesus took place. Interestingly, there are some people who even set extra plates for those of their family members who have died, thinking that their spirits would come down to enjoy the Christmas feast with them. Even lighting up candles have deep underlying connotations for the Orthodox Christians.
Did you know that Didukh is a sheaf of grain that is mostly found in one of the corners of the room and mean a good harvest?
Belarus is one of the most important Orthodox countries in the world which has several holiday traditions post the Christmas celebrations such as singing kolidky (carols) by visiting the houses of the neighbours. And in return, the neighbours provide them with food for their entertainment.
In addition to this, after the families have their Christmas dinner, they also give away chocolates, cookies and candies to their neighbours.
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