Orthodox Christians celebrate the Nativity of Jesus


On January 7, Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate one of the most important holidays: the Nativity of Jesus.

Celebration date

On January 7, Christmas is celebrated by the Russian, Georgian, Jerusalemite, Polish and Serbian Orthodox churches, the Athos monasteries in Greece, as well as the Eastern Catholic Church and the Old Believers. The Roman Catholic, Protestant and ten Orthodox churches (including the Church of Antioch, the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Cyprus, the Bulgarian Church, and others) mark the date earlier, on December 25. The reason is different denominations adhere to different calendars: Julian or Gregorian.

The holiday’s history

In the 2nd-4th centuries, the Nativity of Christ was celebrated on the same day as the Baptism of the Lord under one name Epiphany – January 6, according to the Julian calendar (old style). In the first half of the 4th century, Christmas and Epiphany in the Western church were separated. The Nativity of Christ began to be celebrated on December 25. The date was set intentionally to supplant the Roman Empire’s pagan holidays: Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) and Saturnalia (a holiday in honor of the god Saturn). In this way the Church sought to create a counterbalance to the pagan cult.

In the second half of the 4th century, the Eastern church also moved Christmas to December 25. For the first time, separate celebrations on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ and the Baptism of the Lord were introduced in Constantinople around 377 A.D. on orders from Emperor Arcadius.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new chronology system called the Gregorian calendar (new style), thus correcting the increasing desynchronization between the Julian calendar and the astronomical year. All permanent holidays, including Christmas on December 25, were added to the new calendar. A number of churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, continued to use the Julian calendar, while Christmas was marked on December 25.

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