Orthodox Christmas 2014: Russian, Serbian And More Churches Celebrate The Holiday [PHOTOS]

 @nadinedeninnon.deninno@ibtimes.com on January 06 2014 11:48 AM
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    A child stands in front of an installation depicting the crib of the baby Jesus on the eve of Orthodox Christmas at Kazan Cathedral in Volgograd January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    A woman lights a candle before a service on the eve of Orthodox Christmas in Kazan Cathedral in Volgograd, January 6, 2014. Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, two weeks after most western Christian churches that abide by the Gregorian calendar. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    Metropolitan of Volgograd and Kamyshin German (C) arrives before a service on the eve of Orthodox Christmas in Kazan Cathedral in Volgograd, January 6, 2014. Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, two weeks after most western Christian churches that abide by the Gregorian calendar. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    Members of the Greek Orthodox clergy are reflected in an ornament as they take part in the Eastern Orthodox Christmas procession in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    A Palestinian marching band takes part in the Eastern Orthodox Christmas procession outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Metropolitan Theophilos (C) leads the Eastern Orthodox Christmas procession outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    An altar server waits for the arrival of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Metropolitan Theophilos in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during the Eastern Orthodox Christmas January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    A boy takes part in the Eastern Orthodox Christmas procession outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    An Orthodox priest carries the icon "Our Lady of Seven Arrows" into Orthodox Kazan Cathedral in Volgograd January 4, 2014. Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, two weeks after most western Christian churches that abide by the Gregorian calendar. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    Believers queue to bow to the icon of "Our Lady of Seven Arrows" in the Orthodox Kazan Cathedral in Volgograd, January 4, 2014. Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, two weeks after most western Christian churches that abide by the Gregorian calendar. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Metropolitan Theophilos (C) leads a Christmas procession in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 6, 2014. Reuters
  • Orthodox Christmas 2014
    A child wearing a Santa Claus costume lights a candle inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during the Eastern Orthodox Christmas January 6, 2014. Reuters
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Orthodox Christians in Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Greek Catholics and all other Orthodox churches are beginning Christmas celebrations on Monday.

According to Orthodox beliefs, which follow a different calendar than the Gregorian one used in much of America, Christmas Eve falls on Monday, Jan. 6 and Christmas the day after on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Orthodox Christians believe in the Julian calendar, sometimes called the Russian Orthodox calendar which dates back to 46 B.C., celebrating Christmas 13 days after Dec. 25, on Jan. 7.

“The majority of the Orthodox churches worldwide use the Julian calendar, created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC, and have not adopted the Gregorian calendar, proposed by Latin Pope Gregory of Rome in 1582,” Archimandrite Christopher Calin told The Christian Post last year. “December 25 on the Julian calendar actually falls on January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. So strictly speaking, Christmas is still kept on December 25, which just happens to fall 13 days later on the Julian calendar.”

Russian Orthodox priest Father David Gill further explained to The Nottingham Post why the holiday is celebrated later:

"The story we celebrate at Christmas time is the same as other Christian faiths – which is that God came to live with his people on Earth and Jesus was born to grow up to be a teacher for us,” he said. "The only difference is we put a greater emphasis on the arrival of the three wise men and shepherds, who we believe arrived on Christmas Day – not on the Epiphany, and so feature more in the story."

While the holiday may be celebrated on a different calendar day, Christmas festivities largely remain the same as Western traditions.

Christmas Eve typically begins with a church service, including Communion and readings from the Old and New Testament. Many celebrate by fasting until sunset when the “Holy Night supper,” comprised of 12 meat-and-dairy-free dishes in honor of each apostle, is served. The Nottingham Post wrote that the meal typically consists of warm beetroot soup, borscht, steamed fish, rice and sweets.

On Christmas Day, a church service called “The Feast of the Nativity” is held. The purpose of the meal is to break the fast from many who observe the Nativity Fast, which begins 40 days leading up to Christmas.

In terms of the commercial aspect of the holiday, Calin said “many of the external trappings are the same” as Western culture including Christmas trees and gifts.

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