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"Christ is born! Glorify Him!" is the great message delivered among Orthodox
Christians worldwide during Christmas, the holiday which brings in the true
flavor of the birth of Jesus. The fragrance of the nativity of Jesus Christ is
celebrated with much grace in the Orthodox world.
Orthodox Christmas is
truly the celebration of the great mystery of the Incarnation: The mystery in
which God the Word became man in order to redeem human beings; God became one
among us and incarnation affirms the importance of both man and the whole of
Orthodox Christianity - fasting
Holy fasting is one of the
most important parts of the orthodox nativity celebrations. Eastern orthodox
Churches fast for 40 days where many of the oriental orthodox churches hold a 25
day fast. The Coptic Orthodox Church observes an additional fast for three days
before the beginning of the Nativity Fast, to commemorate the miraculous moving
of the mountain of Mukattam (Cairo) at the hands of Saint Simon the Tanner in
the year 975, during the rule of the Muslim Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz
The Armenian Church observes fasting one week prior to the
nativity celebrations. The Orthodox Church stresses the complete abstinence from
non-vegetarian food and other pleasures during fasting periods. Special recipes
of food will be cooked and served: Lenten bread and other food such as nuts and
fresh dried fruits, vegetables and herbs such as potatoes, peas, garlic,
mushroom soup, slow-cooked kidney beans with potatoes, garlic and seasoning,
Bobal'ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppy seed with honey),
bowl of honey and baked cod among others. The type of food and activity may vary
depending on the particular country's culture and traditions.
For more on
Orthodox recipes click here.
Dates of Nativity
Due to calendar
differences, Orthodox Churches celebrate nativity at different dates. Most of
the eastern orthodox churches such as the Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, Russian
Orthodox, Coptic and Syrian celebrate Christmas on January 7, 2012 - which is
according to the Gregorian calendar, and which day is also known also as Old
Christmas Day. This is because 11 days were lost to account for the calendar
differences once the Julian calendar was created. The Gregorian calendar
predates the Julian calendar which identifies Christmas, as being on December
25, and is celebrated by Latin Catholics.
The Armenian Christmas is
celebrated on January 6, which coincides with Epiphany which represents the
feast of the Manifestation of Christ. Its theme is the baptism of Jesus in the
Eastern Church. Hence the Armenians celebrate Christmas and Epiphany together on
a single day which is called 'Theophany'.
In Jerusalem, however, the Armenians celebrate
Christmas on January 18 and travel to Qasr El Yahud, the baptismal site on the
Jordan River. To learn more on this click here.
The Armenian Orthodox
will celebrate Christmas on January 18.
Several traditions, One Faith
Different Orthodox churches have different customs, practices and traditions
according to their land of origin, but at the same time all churches are united
in one faith. It is the same expression of the undivided church at different
places in the world. The practices and traditions observed in orthodox churches
definitely have biblical reflections. For example let us consider the case of
Christmas tree. Many people relate Christmas tree to pagan tradition. But
Orthodoxy has a very different view on Christmas trees. The Christmas tree is
derived, not from the pagan yule tree, but from the paradise tree adorned with
apples on December 24/January 7 in honor of Adam and Eve. Hence the Orthodox
Church considers the Christmas tree completely biblical in origin.
many places Orthodox Christians walk to rivers and seas in procession as part of
the nativity liturgy. Holy Christmas songs (canons) are sung from the Holy Day
of "Vavedenje" on the December 4, until the January 13, which is the Day of the
New Year and is often called Small Christmas.
Santa Claus for Western
Christians is St. Nicholas for Orthodox Christians. He was also known as
‘Nikolaos of Myra', a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Orthodox Bishop of
Myra, now based in modern Turkey.
For Orthodox Christians, Christmas is a
day for inner thoughts, reflections, repentance and
Travelujah's schedule of Orthodox Christmas and Epiphany events
in the Holy Land
January 5, Eve of Epiphany
5 a.m. and 7: 30 a.m. at the Manger
Grotto for holy masses
11 a.m. at the Tomb of Rachel the Custos of the Holy Land
is welcomed by Latin Parish Priest and other representatives of Bethlehem
p.m. at St. Catherine for Pontifical vespers and procession to the Grotto
p.m. at St. Catherine for Office of Readings and procession to the Grotto
January 6, Epiphany
Midnight at the Grotto
Holy Masses till 9 a.m. with an
interruption between 1 and 2:30 a.m. approximately
7 a.m. at St. Catherine for
10 a.m. at St. Catherine for Pontifical mass in Latin and Arabic
p.m. at St. Catherine for solemn vespers and solemn traditional procession to eh
Grotto; Veneration of Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh
Alexander is Travelujah.com's Orthodox Christianity Expert as well as the Secretary & Spokesperson for the Orthodoxy Cognate Page, Society and Media Network. Visit his blog at www.theorthodoxchurch.info
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