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 Churches
Basilica of the Nativity, Manger Square
9 a.m. The Syrian Archbishop arrives at Manger Square
9:30 a.m. The Coptic Archbishop arrives at Manger Square
1 p.m. The Greek Patriarch arrives at Manger Square
Liturgy ends at 3.30 pm
1 p.m. Syrian Vespers
2:30 p.m. Coptic Vespers
10:30 p.m. Greek Matins
11 p.m. Syrian Liturgy
10:40 p.m. Coptic Liturgy
Midnight Greek Service, ends at 3:30 a.m.
2. Romanian Church
The Romanian Church participates in all liturgies and prayers of the Greek Orthodox Church.
3. Ethiopian Church
Ethiopian Monastery of Peace-Church of Eyesus,
Milk Grotto Street
3:30 p.m. Arrival at the Manger Square and procession to the Church of Eyesus
4 p.m. Vespers till 5 p.m.
8:45 p.m. Bells, prayers and veneration of the Icons
9:50 p.m. Laudes (Mahlet)
Midnight Liturgy (Kidassie)
January 7
4 a.m. Special Breakfast of the day
6 a.m. Dispersal or completion of the Festivity

1. Greek Church
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jan. 6, 11:15 p.m. Midnight Service
2. Romanian Church
Shivtei Israel Street 46
Jan. 6, 7 p.m. Vespers
Jan. 7/8/9, 08:30 a.m. Holy Liturgy
3. Russian Church St. Mary Magdalene, Gethsemane
Jan. 6, 10 a.m. Vespers, Liturgy of St. Basil
5 p.m. Vigil Service
Jan. 7, 8 a.m. Divine Liturgy
4:30 p.m. Vespers
Jan. 8, 7 a.m. Divine Liturgy

4. Russian Church (Moscow Mission)
Russian Compound, Sheshin Street
Jan. 6, 5 p.m. Vespers at St. Alexandra Chapel
Midnight, Divine Liturgy at St. Alexandra Chapel
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