Orthodox Christmas

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Orthodox Christians in central and eastern Europe and other parts of the world celebrate Christmas on January 7 in countries such as Russia, Belarus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine. Some countries, such as Armenia, observe Christmas on January 6. The January 7 celebration of Christmas Day is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, or the United States.

The Christmas dates around January 7 may vary among some churches. The day is a time of reflection, inner thoughts and healing in many eastern European countries. Christmas is celebrated to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, who many Christians believe is the son of God. Herod, who was a king of Judaea died in 4 BCE. Many Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25 but there are some who hold tradition by observing the date on January 7. This date works is according to the Julian calendar that is very old to the Gregorian calendar(which is commonly observed).

Orthodox Christmas Traditions in Different Countries

Even though many countries in Eastern Europe profess the same religion, Christmas traditions differ in all the countries.

It is common to celebrate Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January, with festivities starting on the 6th of January. Christmas Eve dinner can be served after the appearance of the first star on the sky, as it heralds the birth of Christ. Traditionally on the table should be present twelve lean dishes, for the number of apostles, and only on the 7th of January the fasting ends. In Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, it is common to have as one of those dishes kutia, boiled grains mixed with poppy seeds, nuts, raisins, and honey. A similar dish under a different name, koliva, is served in Greece, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, and the Balkans. 

Similarly to a Christmas celebration in other countries, Orthodox Christmas Eve is the time when the whole family gathers to spend time together, eat, and have a good time.