Orthodox Christmas (7 January)

Orthodox churches in most countries celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar (“old style”), with Christmas Day falling on 7 January in the standard, Gregorian calendar. The Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches, however, celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar.

Serbian Patriarch Pavle (1914–2009) performing Christmas service in the Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel (Saborna crkva) in Belgrade  

Orthodox churches in most countries celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar (“old style”), with Christmas Day falling on 7 January in the standard, Gregorian calendar. The Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches, however, celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar.

The number of Orthodox Christians around the world is estimated to be about 300 million, with large followings in Central and Eastern Europe. The Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian church after the Roman Catholic Church.

Many Orthodox Christians fast for forty days before Christmas Day. The Christmas festivities start on the evening of 6 January and continue for almost two weeks until Epiphany (Gregorian: 19 January). The fast typically lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. This “holy supper” is the central tradition of the Christmas Eve celebration. Christmas is a joyous day that starts with families attending church. Churches offer services starting before midnight on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning. Various traditions exist for Christmas. For example, many churches light a small fire of blessed palms and burn frankincense to commemorate the three wise men’s gifts to Jesus.

Published May 20, 2010 3:38 PM - Last modified Dec. 8, 2010 11:02 AM