Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Gregorian Christmas

While Christmas trees and decorations have been taken down in many countries, celebrations are just beginning in others. Throughout Eastern Europe and The Middle East, as well as parts of Africa, Orthodox Christians, Greek Catholics and Coptic Christians will celebrate Christmas 13 days after the well-known Dec. 25 festivities.

The difference in dates goes back several centuries to when Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar in 1582. The Gregorian calendar has become known as the “Western calendar” and is internationally followed by many governments with Christmas celebrated Dec. 25. The Gregorian calendar was introduced to correct the Julian calendar that was created under the rule of Roman leader Julius Caesar and dates back to 46 B.C. Not all religions have switched over to the Gregorian calendar, which accounts for celebrations on Jan. 7 .

There are 15 different Eastern Orthodox churches and several, including ones in Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia and Macedonia, celebrate Jan. 7 . Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic churches also celebrate in January.

Traditions vary across countries and religions. A mass is usually celebrated on Christmas Eve in the evening. In Russia and Ukraine 12-course meat- and dairy-free meals are eaten on Christmas Eve to represent the 12 apostles. Common dishes include borscht, dumplings and stuffed cabbage. On Christmas day, carolling around neighbourhoods is a common tradition. In Ethiopia church services and sporting tournaments are part of the holiday while in Serbia families traditionally go out to look for an oak branch to decorate their homes.

Whatever the case may be, we extend our warmest wishes to those celebrating on January 7th!

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