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Why do Eastern Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7?

Sun, Jan. 7, 2018
CAIRO - 7 January 2018: Around 37 percent of the Orthodox Christians, mainly in Egypt and Russia, celebrate Christmas on January 7, unlike the Catholics and Protestants who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25.

Celebrating Christmas on January 7 dates back to 1582 when astronomy scientists during the Roman pope Gregory XIII’s era noticed a mistake in calculating the length of the Greek solar year.

It was believed that the Greek solar year lasted for 365 days, and six hours, according to the Julian calendar, meaning that Christmas celebrations should take place on December 25. However, celebration was re-dated to January 7 due the Gregorian calendar, which states that the year lasts for 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Taking the 11 minutes and 14 seconds difference between the two calendars in their calculations, scientists reached the conclusion that Jesus Christ was born on January 7.

Surprisingly, this new calendar was not welcomed by the entire Christian world, some people preferred to use the civil calendar. Still, in 1917, the Russian Bolsheviks started to use the Gregory calendar, and soon after, in 1919, the Romanians accepted it under King Ferdinand’s reign. The last Christian country to accept this calendar was Greece, as it started to use it in 1923.

As a result, the Eastern Orthodox Christians were separated from the Western Catholic and Protestant Christians, since the Easterners celebrate Christmas on January 7th, and the Westerners celebrate it on December 25.

Lots of Orthodox Christians fast before January 7, and exclude meat and dairies from their meals. In other words, they are vegans during the fasting period. On Christmas day, they may enjoy all kinds of food, including meat and desserts to celebrate this holiday.

For example, the Orthodox country, Russia is famous for preparing dishes of baked goose with apples, as their Christmas meal. On the other hand, the orthodox Greeks prepare “Christ’s bread” during Christmas Eve, which is made with walnuts and almonds. They usually shape the symbol of the cross on it, which is obviously the best known symbol of Christianity.

Christmas is considered one of the most important feasts in the Christian world. The word “Christmas” means “the feast day of Christ”, as it indicates the day Jesus Christ was born. It links people, as family members go to church together in the morning, sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts.

Children also consider Christmas a very exciting holiday, as they associate it with colorful candy canes, decorating Christmas trees, building snowmen and wearing Santa Clause’s customs and hat. In the United States, children leave cookies and milk in their houses for Santa Clause, as they believe that he will come visit them to leave them gifts.
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