Sunday, January 10, 2010

Orthodox Christmas

As many of you know, I am privileged to live in a place where they celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar and so Christmas is on the 7th of January each year. Thus, I get to have two Christmas' each year! I really enjoy having such a spread out celebration of this great holiday where we get to remember that "Hristos se rodi" (Christ is born). Here the response to this greeting on Christmas day is "Vaistinu se rodi!" (He is indeed!) and my prayer is that people here would truly believe that!!!

This year, Serbian Orthodox Christmas passed by in a whirl as Ljilja and I went to four different places during the day, thus breaking my previous record of three Christmas dinners in one day! We started off at our landlady's for breakfast. After that we went with David and Antti (who was with us from Finland for 10 days) to Dragana's for lunch, and after that for tea at Ankica's. We did have a half an hour break at home before the finale at Olja and Nenad's for dinner. And if that was not enough, we went over to Tanja and Damjan's on the day after Christmas too!

Traditionally for Christmas dinner you are given soup, followed by "sarma" (stuffed cabbage), followed by "cicvara" (cooked cornmeal with "kajmak"-salted clotted cream- and sour cream...mmm!) which is only served on Christmas day. Alongside the cicvara (which is pronounced "tsitsvara") comes spit-roast pork (the tradition is to kill the pig two days before Christmas and spit roast it on Christmas eve) and all sorts of other goodies! And all this is topped off with cake and biscuits/cookies.

For those that are interested why Russian and Serbian and some other Orthodox Churches celebrate on the 7th of January: I took this from

So, why January 7?

In ancient times, many, mostly unreliable methods had been used to calculate the dates according to either the lunar or solar cycles. By Roman times, the calendar had become three months out with the seasons, so in 46 BC, Julius Caesar commissioned the astronomer, Sosigenes to devise a more reliable method. This, we know as the Julian Calendar and was used widely for 1500 years. The month of his birth, Caesar had named Quintilis, but the Roman Senate later re-named it Julius (July) in his honour. In those days, February had 30 days every 4 years.

However, this calendar was still 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year, so that by the year 1580, the calendar had accumulated 10 days off again. In 1582, therefore, Pope Gregory XIII corrected the difference between the sun and calendar by ordering 10 days dropped from October, the month with the least Roman Catholic Feast days. His calendar, we know as the Gregorian Calendar, which is used in almost all of the world today. Pope Gregory made further changes to keep the calendar in line, which on average is only 26.3 seconds longer than the solar year. The Gregorian Calendar is so accurate that it will take until the year 4316 to gain a whole day on the sun.

That year, 1582, October 5th became October 15th and was immediately adopted in most Roman Catholic nations of Europe. Various German states kept the Julian Calendar until 1700. Britain and the American Colonies didn't change until 1752, but Russia and Turkey did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the early 1900's.

So, January 7th by the Georgian Calendar would have been December 25th by the old Julian Calendar and is therefore why it is still Christmas Day for the Russian Orthodox Church. Many Russians will have celebrated along with the rest of us and will then celebrate again on the Orthodox date.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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