Christmas is over, roast turkeys, meat pies and red wines have been polished off and the cakes and pastries are almost over. But did you know that nearly 12% of the Christians celebrated Christmas only after December 25th, the day we celebrated Christmas? In Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Serbia, Christmas falls in January, or exactly 13 days after Dec 25th. Blame it on their calendar!
If half of the world follows the Gregorian Calendar, these countries rely on the Julian Calendar.
Many Orthodox churches stick to a 2,000-year-old calendar that differs from the one used by most of the world today.
Origin of the Julian Calendar
From AD 325 there was a conflict over the birthdate of Jesus Christ. To regulate the date of Easter, the first Catholic Council of the Christian Church decided to base it on the Julian calendar, a solar calendar which Roman ruler Julius Caesar had adopted in 46 BC.
But the Greek Astronomer Sosigenes calculations (who made the calendar) have issues as they overvalued the length of the solar year by about 11 minutes. As the centuries progressed, the calendar and the solar year became out of sync. Pope Gregory XIII who was worried by the drifting dates of important Christian holidays proposed a new calendar, known as the Gregorian calendar.
By 1923, there was a 13-day difference between the two calendars, putting Orthodox Christmas 13 days after December 25. That explains the existence of two Christmases.
In several places in Russia, they celebrate it on January 7th while Italy’s Christmas is on the 6th of January, which they call as the Epiphany day as they believed it was on the 12th day after Baby Jesus was born that three wise men arrived bearing gifts.
World over most tourists plan their holidays around the Christmas-New Year dates. But it is also true that China does not celebrate Christmas as the majority are not Christians.
Having said that for the Chinese, Christmas Eve is the biggest shopping day of the year and the young people celebrate it as a romantic day.
There are also Christians who do not observe Christmas like Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, and members of the Churches of Christ. Some Christians do not celebrate on Dec 25th as they believe that there is nothing in the Bible that says Christ was born on that day.