Millions of Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas in January. Yes, there is more than one Christmas Day. This has to do with the fact that there is more than one calendar in use in the Christian world. For the time being there is no sign of Christian unity on this issue.
Most Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25. In some countries the evening before Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, overshadows the day itself. At Christmas families and friends come together, eat traditional Christmas food and exchange presents. Some also sing Christmas carols and decorates a Christmas tree.
Across the world you would find many Christmas traditions and rituals. Church services in the middle of the night. Gifts for children put in stockings. Nativity scenes and nativity plays. Different kinds of music, clothing, lighting, decorations and food. Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost.
Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7. Accordingly, December 25 ― where Catholic and Protestant Christians (and some Orthodox churches, to make matters more complicated) celebrate Christmas ― is a rather normal winter day in Russia, for example.
All Christians consider December 25 to be the day when Christ was born. Why don’t all Christians celebrate that on the same date? Confused? The thing is: The date December 25 in different religious calendars falls on different days in the ‘normal’ calendar.
The majority of Orthodox churches still adhere to the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar, as basis for their liturgical calendars and calculation of movable feasts. Today the Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world. Introduced by pope Gregory XIII in 1582, it is more closely synchronized to the ‘real’, astronomical year.
Today, in the 21st Century, the Julian calendar is 13 days ‘behind’ the Gregorian. Therefore, Christmas celebrations in Gregorian calendar churches and in Julian calendar churches are almost two weeks apart.
Really, Christmas comes twice a year! – So, Merry Christmas everyone!
Christmas is celebrated in January by Orthodox Christians in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Georgia, Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and in the Levant. This last group include some of the Orthodox churches in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The rest of the Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas in December (i.e. Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Finland as well as Orthodox Christians in Asia Minor, Egypt and in the Levant who recognize the leadership of the Roman Catholic pope or the Greek Orthodox patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antiochia and Jerusalem.)
Church leaders more than once tried to unite Christianity under one calendar. So far, Christian unity on this issue has remained a dream. Theological, political and national differences aside, maybe it just is very difficult to change old habits. Christmas could be one of the most difficult habits to change, laden as it is with traditions, meaning and memories for both young and old.