Merry Christmas! – Why do Macedonians Celebrate Christmas on January 7th?
Today, January 7th, Macedonians and other Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate Christmas! For those of us that live outside of Macedonia, we know all to well the bewildered looks our non-Orthodox friends give us and the questions that follow when we tell them that January 7th is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Here is a simplified history for those that are wondering why we celebrate Christmas thirteen days after the rest of the world.
Julian calendar versus Gregorian calendar
The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar, took in effect in 45 BC and was the civil and church calendar for the majority of countries and churches in Europe and other areas of the world until 1582. In 1582, Pope Gregory XII introduced the Gregorian calendar to replace the Julian calendar for the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually the Gregorian calendar spread and was adopted as the civil calendar for the majority of the world – including the USA, Australia, and Republic of Macedonia. Many churches also followed the Roman Catholic change and switched to the Gregorian calendar as their church calendar. The Macedonian Orthodox Church, along with most other Orthodox churches, never made the change to the Gregorian calendar and continue, to this day, to use the Julian calendar for all church related affairs. The calendars are often referred to as the new (Gregorian) and old (Julian) to help differentiate between the two.
January 7th in the “New” Gregorian calendar is December 25th in the “Old” Julian calendar
There is a thirteen day difference between the two calendars, with the Julian calendar being thirteen days behind the Gregorian calendar. This means that today is January 7th in the Gregorian calendar, but it is actually December 25th in the Julian calendar. So, in the Julian calendar the date for Christmas is actually December 25th, but because of the simultaneous use of both calendars December 25th in the Julian calendar falls today (January 7th) and not 13 days ago. This is also why we celebrate Stara Nova Godina (Old New Year) on January 14th, since January 14th in the Gregorian calendar is actually January 1st according to the Julian calendar.
“New” Gregorian Calendar Date/”Old” Julian Calendar Date
Christmas – January 7th / December 25th
New Year’s Day – January 14th / January 1st
A little confused? – Looking at an Orthodox calendar helps!
For those of you that can read Macedonian, the Macedonian Orthodox Church has their Orthodox calendar available online here. The calendar used to be translated into English, but has since been removed. The Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Baltimore, Maryland USA has a great interactive English Orthodox calendar that is available online here. If you know of a Macedonian Orthodox calendar in English, please share in the comments. Both online calendars show the “new” calendar and “old” calendar dates for each date.