Orthodox Christmas Day is on January 7 every year. Isn’t it an exciting opportunity to celebrate another Christmas just as the New Year kicks off? Can you believe that Christmas was originally celebrated 13 days after December 25 (the day we all celebrate today)? In the Julian calendar — a much older calendar used before the current Gregorian calendar — Christmas was celebrated on January 7. The Orthodox Church still uses the same old calendar to celebrate Christmas Day. Orthodox Christians celebrate by attending church and other traditions like burning frankincense to commemorate the Wise Men’s gifts to baby Jesus.
History of Orthodox Christmas Day
The Christmas season is a much anticipated period of the year worldwide. It is an important time and means many different things to everyone. It is a time to reconnect with family and loved ones, a time to give and receive gifts and love, a time to relax and take a break from all the rigours of the previous months, and more importantly, a time Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible’s account of the birth of Jesus does not explicitly state on which date He was born. The celebration of Christmas on December 25 is a conception by Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian historian in 221 A.D. The date was set using the Julian calendar, which was later updated to the Gregorian calendar.
Orthodox Christmas day occurs every January 7 because the Orthodox Church still chooses to celebrate the birth of Jesus as per the Julian calendar. However, the Gregorian calendar that is currently in use led to a new Christmas Day on December 25 due to the addition of new elements that changed the calendar year. So perhaps we can even say that Orthodox Christmas day is the original Christmas Day.
Whether you celebrate on December 25 or 7, Christmas has evolved from a pagan holiday to a Christian celebration to a time for everyone, no matter their religion, climes, or associations. It is a time for everyone to make merry and engage in traditions and customs like organizing and attending Christmas carols and concerts, putting up Christmas trees and lights, making beautiful Christmas cookies, and more.
Orthodox Christmas Day Timeline
Creation of the Julian Calendar
Roman Emperor Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar and enforced it in all lands governed by the Roman Empire.
The Birth of Jesus
According to historians, Jesus is born during this period before the death of Herod two years later.
The First Council of Nicaea
Christian leaders meet and decide to set Christmas Day and other Christian events according to the Julian calendar.
Pope Gregory XIII creates a new calendar to deal with inconsistencies in the Julian calendar, leading to a new Christmas date.
Orthodox Christmas Day Faqs
What do you say for Orthodox Christmas Day?
You also say Merry Christmas to your Orthodox friends.
What Bible does the Orthodox Church use?
They use the New King James Version.
What are the different books in the Orthodox Bible?
Tobit; Judith; additions to Esther; 1 Maccabees; Wisdom of Solomon; Sirach, and Baruch.
Orthodox Christmas Day Activities
- Attend an Orthodox Christmas Service
- The best way to celebrate Orthodox Christmas Day is to attend their Christmas service. Partake with them physically to celebrate and bask in the season’s spirit.
- Join them in fasting
- Orthodox churches engage in fasting on days leading to their Christmas celebration. You can join them in fasting or abstain from meat and dairy products for that period, as is their tradition.
- Give gifts to your Orthodox Christian friends
- Christmas is all about showing our love and care for others. Giving gifts to our Orthodox Christian friends is another way of showing our love and respect for them and bringing warm smiles to their faces and hearts.
5 Interesting Facts About The Orthodox Church
- Orthodox means “straight teaching.”
- Orthodox is derived from two Greek words, ‘Orthos,’ which means “straight,” and ‘Doxa,’ which means “teaching” or “worship.”
- There are different Orthodox churches
- Different Orthodox churches exist worldwide, divided into the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
- Their names are unique
- The Orthodox churches in each country are mostly named after their geography, with names like the Church of Constantinople, the Church of Jerusalem, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
- Priests can be married
- Orthodox priests are allowed to have wives only if they do so before their ordination into the priesthood.
- Liturgy services as performed by Jesus
- Their services mostly embody the actions performed by Jesus when He was alive, including breaking bread, speaking his words, singing hymns from psalms, and reading the scriptures.
Why We Love Orthodox Christmas Day
- A time of reflection
- In contrast to the regular Christmas Day, Orthodox Christmas day is all about seeking peace and calm. Members of the Orthodox Church come together to burn frankincense and perform other religious rituals to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and reflect on its essence. They also meditate on what is important in life while counting their blessings.
- A reminder of changes in time
- Every year, Orthodox Christmas Day reminds us of the growth the world we live in has gone through. It is intriguing how Christmas Day can be on two different days due to changes of a few hours in the Gregorian calendar.
- Another chance at celebrating Christmas
- Christmas is so fun we never want it to end. Orthodox Christmas Day grants us another chance to celebrate Christmas just before the New Year overwhelms everyone with its challenges and expectations.