It’s Christmas Day again! What today’s Orthodox Christmas is all about

January 7, 2018

By Amy Wilkls,

Orthodox Christians mark Christmas (Picture: Getty) Millions of Britons may have celebrated Christmas Day nearly two weeks ago – but some countries in the world have waited a little while longer. Festive baking recipe: Bangladeshi-inspired coconut rolls Orthodox Christians in Russia, Greece, Ethiopia and dozens of other countries are only celebrating Christmas today. That’s 13 days after December 25th according to the calendar we use here in the UK. Here’s why there is such a difference in when the festivities are celebrated as well as where. Which countries mark Christmas on January 7? Palestinian Orthodox Christians attend a Christmas mass at the Greek-Orthodox Saint Porfirios church in Gaza City (Picture: Getty) There are 16 countries around the world that mark Christmas Day in January. Many of these are in the Soviet bloc, the Middle East and parts of Europe. They include: Russia, Ethiopia, Greece, Serbia, Eritrea, Egypt, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Bulgaria. Why some countries mark Christmas late A Palestinian scout band performs outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, ahead of the Orthodox Christmas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem (Picture: Reuters) It’s all to do with which calendar countries around the world follow. Here in Britain we follow the new Gregorian calendar but some countries still follow the old Julian calendar, created by Julius Caesar in 35AD, for religious festivals. The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar after Pope Gregory of Rome developed it in 1582. The Julian calendar miscalculated the length of a solar year, creating an 11-minute discrepancy each year, which built up over time and caused it to fall out of sync. However, while the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar many countries retained the historic Julian calendar dates to mark certain religious festivals including Christmas. How these countries celebrate Christmas People attend a ceremonial burning of dried oak branches, the Yule log symbol for the Orthodox Christmas Eve in front of a church in Smederevo, 60 kilometres east of Belgrade (Picture: Getty) Christmas is not only celebrated on a different day in these 16 countries but it is also celebrated in different ways. In Serbia the day is spent hunting for an oak branch to be burned during Christmas dinner. Meanwhile in Belarus people eat pancakes and fish on a table of straw and in Montenegro a loaf of bread with a coin inside is broken during dinner with the person receiving the coin gaining good luck. Those in Russia eat 12 courses – including beetroot soup, fish and stuffed cabbage – on Christmas Eve to pay tribute to the 12 apostles while in Kazakhstan there is a midnight liturgy at the cathedral in Almaty. People in Macedonia chop an oak log into three pieces on Christmas Eve to represent the Holy Trinity and in Ethiopia males play a game called ganna with a curved stick and wooden ball and eat a spicy meat stew called ‘wat’. A goat is usually slaughtered and eaten in Eritrea while christians in Egypt feast on meat, eggs and butter on Christmas Eve after a long fast beforehand from November 25. A pig is slaughtered as a Christmas meal in Romania. And in Greece a sprig of basil is wrapped around a cross an placed in water while other countries celebrate Christmas in a similar way to Britain with a Christmas tree and blessings.


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