The Forgotten Christmas: Eastern Orthodox on January 7th


The Forgotten Christmas:  Eastern Orthodox on January 7th

Christmas Eve services in Bethlehem have become an institution for the Christian world of the West, but what about the Christians living in the MIddle East?  The vast majority do not follow the Gregorian calendar, that proclaims Christmas on December 25th, but instead follow the Julian calendar, that proclaims Christmas on January 7th.  The majority of Christians living in Syria, Israel, and Egypt follow this calendar.  While the Maronite Christians living in Lebanon are in communion with the Pope of Rome, so they follow the Gregorian calendar with Christmas on December 25th.  Within Jerusalem itself are Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Assyrian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox.  All of these denominations are represented at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of Mary Madgalene in Jerusalem.  At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Ethiopian Orthodox monks are found up on the roof.  The Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus Christ is celebrated on January 1st, even though no Christian churches practice ritual circumcision now.  Sunday for the Eastern Orthodox churches starts at sundown on Saturday night, the same way the Jewish Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday night.  Despite these extremely close  comparisons, the Russian Orthodox Church has been a bastion for Anti-Semitism, while the Bulgarian Orthodox Church came out very strongly against the deportation of Jews during World War II.  Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for generations an Arab Muslim family had possession of the keys to lock up the church at night, so the different denominations would not bicker with each other.  But there is a low lintel over the doorway of the church, which was placed there so the Muslims would not ride their horses into the church.  There is been disparity between the three Abrahamic faiths that call Jerusalem holy, but there has been a great deal of interaction that was either copied, or used to benefit the other.  How can we use the disparity within the three Abrahamic faiths, and among the three Abrahamic faiths to be a role model for coexistence?  And for the Eastern Orthodox Christians, Merry Christmas.

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Comment by Tim Upham on January 7, 2013 at 9:27pm

Egyptian authorities just intercepted a car bomb in the city of Rafah, which was going to be used to blow up a Coptic Church on January 7th.  Fortunately, this plot was foiled.  But the perpetrators of this plot have to be deem as just plain sick.  This is the unfortunate part of practicing faith in the Middle East, one side will try to disrupt the other.  But fortunately, these people in the city of Rafah, can celebrate their Christmas on January 7th.  But it is trying to spread this liberty out to other Christian communities, as well as Jewish and Muslim communities.

Comment by Tim Upham on January 6, 2013 at 7:30am

Gezuar Krishtlindjet e Vitin e Ri - Albanian.

Melkam Gena Melkam Addis Amet - Amharic (remember the Ethiopian Orthodox monks are on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.)

Ajimil at-tihani bimuasabah al milad wa hilul as-sanah - Arabic.

Edo bri'ch o rish d'shato - Aramaic.

Shnorhavor Amanor yev Surb Tznund - Eastern Armenian.

Shnorhavor Nor Daree yev Soorp Dzuhnoont - Western Armenian (the Armenian used in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.)

Z Bozym naradzenniem - Belorussian.

Cestita Koleda - Bulgarian.

Nofri sai'mpihinmici 'mPi,rictoc - Coptic (remember Coptic is a Hamitic language spoken by the ancient Egyptians, before Arabic arrived in Egypt in the 7th century C.E.)

Gilocavth shoba-akhal c'eis - Georgian (the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin studied to be a priest in the Georgian Orthodox Church, but left the priesthood after his brother was hung for Communist revolutionary activities.)

Kala hristuyenna - Greek.

Hristoc se rodi - Macedonian.

Kerismas mobarak - Persian or Farsi.

Craciun fericit si un An Nou Fericit - Romanian.

S Rozdestvom Khristovym - Russian.

Hristos se rodi - Serbian.

Veseloho Rizdva i z Novym Rokom - Ukrainian.

Comment by Tim Upham on January 4, 2013 at 9:00pm

What the Armenians will do is travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on January 17th, then on the next day will have a big celebration at the Church of the Nativity, and in the square in front of it -- Manger Square.  The Armenian Orthodox Church is the oldest denomination in Christianity, and the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem goes back to the 4th century C.E.  It is interesting that you mention Paul, because he authored books in the New Testament, and spread Christianity to the Greek speaking communities around the Mediterranean -- present day Turkey and Greece.  This is the reason why the books of the New Testament are written in Greek, and Greek pronunciation got into Christianity, such as Bible and Jesus Christ.  Christianity completely revolves around the birth, life, death, resurrection, teachings, and quotations of Jesus Christ.  While in Islam Jesus is viewed as a prophet, and is mentioned in the Qu'ran 25 times.  It is just that Mohammed supersedes all of the prophets. In Judaism, Jesus is not mentioned at all, except Christian sources will say he was Jewish.  Also, HaShem supersedes all of the prophets in Judaism.  But it is interesting to see how nationalism went in and shaped religions, because in the Balkan Peninsula, the Orthodox churches did not break up, until those regions got their independence from the Ottoman Empire -- hence the Greek Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Macedonian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, and Serbian Orthodox.

Comment by Martin Rau on January 4, 2013 at 9:48am

Dear Tim,

thank you for your knowledgable text on the different Christmas celebrations. I may add that some Armenians celebrate Christmas even later on the 18th of January. You write from a Jerusalem perspective. Here in Bethlehem I have been at the catholic Christmas celebration and maybe a guest is coming for the orthodox one.

How the religions could profit from each other? I believe, it is a matter of the Spirit. Humility gives unity. Paul writes to the Phillipians: "Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,... (Phil. 2:3)." Even if it is only a single thing which I can see in some one else where he or she is "above myself" we could come to more unity and fruitful exchange.

Greetings and blessings, Martin


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