Orthodox Christian communities in multiple countries are preparing to celebrate their own Christmas on Jan. 7, 2018, a fortnight after the Dec. 25 event. Orthodox Christmas is recognized and celebrated by a total of 16 countries which include Russia, Ukraine, Egypt and Serbia.

So why does the celebrations take place in January instead of December?

This is because of a difference in calendars. A majority of Orthodox churches around the world use the Julian calendar which was made under Roman emperor Julius Caesar in the 45 BC. These churches didn’t adopt the Gregorian calendar which was proposed by Latin Pope Gregory of Rome in 1582.

In the year 1923, an amended version of the Julius calendar was introduced, which placed the day of Christmas in line with the same day as stated in the Gregorian calendar. However, only some countries like Cyprus, Greece and Romania adopted the revised version.

There is a difference of 13 days between the two calendars. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by the western nations.

Let’s have a look at how some of these countries celebrate Orthodox Christmas.

Russia: 39 percent of world's Orthodox Christians reside in this country. Also, people here enjoy the most number of holidays over Christmas, which begin on New Year’s Eve and end on the day of Orthodox Christmas. Traditional celebrations in Russia include a large family meal which consists of 12 courses representing the 12 apostles.

The meal might change on regional basis but the traditional course includes kutia (pudding made of wheat and fruit), vzvar (a traditional Russian drink), borscht, roasted cod, vegetable pie and salads. On Jan. 7, families attend church, similar to what is followed in the west. 

Egypt: Egyptian Christians eat a vegan diet for 43 days from Nov. 25 to Jan. 6. They eat meat, eggs and butter on the Christmas Eve. The next day is celebrated by conducting social gatherings and parties.

Serbia: Orthodox Christmas in this nation is spent by hunting for an oak tree branch. The branch is then burned during dinner and also in the evening during the church service. The first three people who come to someone’s house on Christmas day are considered as the "Three Wise Men" and are given a special greeting.

Ukraine: In this nation, the festive week lasts from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14. During this period, people dress up, visit homes and sing Christmas songs and give exchange blessings. Similar to Russia, Ukraine also has a 12-course meal which they have on Orthodox Christmas day.

Ethiopia: In this country, choirs begin singing at ceremonies early morning. After the church services, the males play a game called Ganna. The game is played with a curved stick and a wooden ball. Traditional food during this time consists of an item called “Wat.” It is a thick and chilly stew that contains meat, vegetables and sometime eggs.