Orthodox Christmas continues in the Holy Land

Greek, Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians will converge at Manger Square in Bethlehem for their continuous Christmas celebrations.

grotto of nativity_311 (photo credit: Travelujah.com)
grotto of nativity_311
(photo credit: Travelujah.com)
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Orthodox Christmas in the Holy Land continues this week with Orthodox Christians celebrating their holidays and most of their services and festivities taking place on Christmas eve, Jan. 6.
Greek, Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians will converge at Manger Square in Bethlehem for their Christmas nearly two weeks after the Catholic and Protestant celebration of the holiday.
The disparity in the dates stems from the year 336 when Constantine declared Christianity the empire's religion. Eastern churches continued to commemorate Christmas on January 6 as the date for Christ's birth and his baptism, which up till then was celebrated as part of the Epiphany, the observance of the Magi arriving to see Jesus. The Western church continued to celebrate the Epiphany on Jan. 6 separate from Christmas and the Eastern churches celebrate the Epiphany on  Jan. 18.
Then in the 16th century Pope Gregory devised a new calendar. The Eastern Orthodox and some Protestants retained the Julian calendar, which meant celebrating Christmas 13 days later than their Gregorian counterparts.
If you are in Bethlehem, it won't be hard to find any number of services and vespers. Here is a schedule of events:
1. Greek, Syrian and Coptic ChurchesBasilica of the Nativity, Manger Square9 a.m. The Syrian Archbishop arrives at Manger Square9:30 a.m. The Coptic Archbishop arrives at Manger Square1 p.m. The Greek Patriarch arrives at Manger SquareLiturgy ends at 3.30 pm1 p.m. Syrian Vespers2:30 p.m. Coptic Vespers10:30 p.m. Greek Matins11 p.m. Syrian Liturgy10:40 p.m. Coptic LiturgyMidnight Greek Service, ends at 3:30 a.m.
2. Romanian ChurchThe Romanian Church participates in all liturgies and prayers of the Greek Orthodox Church.
3. Ethiopian ChurchEthiopian Monastery of Peace-Church of Eyesus,Milk Grotto Street3:30 p.m. Arrival at the Manger Square and procession to the Church of Eyesus4 p.m. Vespers till 5 p.m.8:45 p.m. Bells, prayers and veneration of the Icons9:50 p.m. Laudes (Mahlet)Midnight Liturgy (Kidassie)January 74 a.m. Special Breakfast of the day6 a.m. Dispersal or completion of the Festivity
1. Greek ChurchChurch of the Holy SepulchreJan. 6, 11:15 p.m. Midnight Service
2. Romanian ChurchShivtei Israel Street 46Jan. 6, 7 p.m. VespersJan. 7/8/9, 08:30 a.m. Holy Liturgy
3. Russian Church St. Mary Magdalene, GethsemaneJan. 6, 10 a.m. Vespers, Liturgy of St. Basil5 p.m. Vigil ServiceJan. 7, 8 a.m. Divine Liturgy4:30 p.m. VespersJan. 8, 7 a.m. Divine Liturgy
4. Russian Church (Moscow Mission)Russian Compound, Sheshin StreetJan. 6, 5 p.m. Vespers at St. Alexandra ChapelMidnight, Divine Liturgy at St. Alexandra Chapel
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