Why do we celebrate nativity on Jan 7 and not december 25?

Why do we celebrate nativity on Jan 7 and not december 25?


  • Because the Western world, and then most of the rest of the world, has revised the calendar hundreds of years ago because the old one which the Coptic Orthodox Church uses is slowly moving away from the correct seasons. So eventually, after thousands of years, the Winter months of the Coptic calendar will actually take place in the Summer.

    The Western world has dealt with this issue, and removed 13 days from one year, so that the Calendar matched the correct time.

    So when we keep Christmas on 25th December in the UK it is using the revised calendar. When the Copts keep the feast later it is because they have not revised the calendar, it is still essentially on the 25th December (its a bit more complex) but using the old, unrevised Western calendar.

    Father Peter
  • Fr. Peter gave the technical and correct answer.

    I will give the answer that I give my American friends:  'we want to get everything on Clearance and 75% off'.
  • I guess the Coptic church faces the challenge of adjusting the Coptic months, rather than just resetting the calendar.  How can we not celebrate Christmas on 29th of Kiahk? Reduce the month of Kiahk to only two or three Sundays only?!!! Very strange? A dilemma, isn't it?
    [coptic]oujai qen P[C[/coptic]
  • I guess resetting the calendar is a one time issue (theoretically possible to undertake) given that the same was done in the 17th century by the westerners.

    I agree it would pose a huge conundrum relative to the days between 29 Koiak at the Resurrection Seasonal cycle.  The other days (from the Resurrection Season to the Nativity) would go unchanged.
  • I suppose the change could take place at whatever is considered the quietest part of the year so that major feasts would not be affected. But as ILSM says, it is a one time change.

    The issue is, for instance, that Pascha ends up being nowhere near the Spring Equinox where it is supposed to be, and could eventually end up at the Vernal Equinox.

    The Fathers always seemed interested in proper and accurate calculations of Pascha, and turned to Alexandria for the correct date (usually). It seems reasonable to consider correcting an error in the civil calendar if it causes changes in the cycle of seasons the Fathers did not intend.

    But I don't think it is a major issue immediately.

    Father Peter
  • I really don't know. Of course I'm not trying to defend the church, or be cynical either but thinking about it, it may have grave repercussions for the coming generations: nayrouz will fall on a day other than September the 11th! Feast of the Cross will not be on 27th - 29th! Epiphany will fall on the 6th of January! Apostles' feast, Virgin Mary's fast! And and and...
  • Hi ophadece, the issue is that the Feast of the Cross will not be on the 27th, it will slowly continue to process through the calendar and will eventually take place in October, then November etc etc. The issue is that the Julian calendar is too short over the period of a century. A century ago the Feast of the Cross was on the 26th, and a century before that it was on the 25th. In another century it will be on the 28th, and a century after that it will be on the 29th. It will be the same Coptic calendar date of course, but the Coptic calendar is slipping against the real calendar of the year.

    This is why the revised Calendar was introduced in the West.

    The Feast of the Cross is supposed to be on September 14th. But if the old Calendar is not revised at some point it will become further and further away from this date.

    The old calendar is about 11 minutes too short compared to real time, so over a period of 100 years it becomes 18 hours too short, and over about 130 years it is a day too short. When the Catholic Church revised the calendar it adjusted it by 10 days so that the date of the assumed date of the vernal equinox matched the real vernal equinox as at the time of Nicaea. When the British made the same change it was some centuries later so we needed to adjust by 11 days.

    Over the following centuries the discrepancy has continued to grow and became 12 days in 1800, and 13 days in 1900. The discrepancy will continue to grow with the old calendar having less and less connection to the real seasons of the year. Eventually Coptic Christmas will take place in the middle of Summer.

    It doesn't seem to me that this is what the Fathers intended, and so a revision of the calendar is not anti-Orthodox. But it is not the most pressing issue.

    Father Peter
  • I know that the Greek Orthodox church changed their calendar to celebrate christmas on the 25th but still celebrate easter at the same time as the COC. Could we apply the same changes they did or will it not be suitable for  us???
  • Dear Father Peter,

    Merry Christmas (sorry for being 2 days late).

    I have two questions, please:

    1) When does the British Orthodox Church celebrate Easter, with the Coptic Church or the Western Churches (Catholic etc)?

    2) How does each church calculate the date of Easter, and why do they sometimes vary, and at other times match?


  • Pi Onkh, the Orthodox churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria have adopted the Revised Julian calendar - which means that the fixed feasts are according to the revised/corrected calendar while the Paschal cycle is according to the unrevised calendar.

    The British Orthodox Church also follows this mixed calendar. So fixed feasts which are on a particular date are according to the revised calendar - 25th December is 25th December for instance, while Lent, Pascha and Pentecost are according to the old calendar and are kept in common with most other Orthodox.

    The Finnish Orthodox Church keeps Pascha etc in accordance with the revised calendar.

    mechaiel, the date of Pascha is supposed to be on the date of the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal or Spring equinox. This notionally takes place on March 21st. But since the Julian calendar is slowly moving away from the actual calendar it means that the Julian and Western Calendars are talking about different real dates for March 21st. (There are other complications as well). But this means that sometimes the calculation of Pascha will be different for Catholics/Protestants and most Orthodox. In many thousands of years the notional Spring Equinox for the Julian calendar will be at the time of the Autumn Equinox.

    This is of course not something we perhaps need to worry about now. But one of the questions we could ask is whether the calendar should be revised to be more accurate and reflect the actual dates as known at Nicaea or not. It does seem to me that the Fathers were concerned to be accurate in their calculation of Pascha. But they also wished to ensure that there was one Pascha celebrated in all places, which is why most Orthodox keep the unrevised calendar for Pascha since it is better to be inaccurate, if that is the case, than to celebrate multiple Paschas.

    Father Peter
  • Many thanks, Fr Peter.
  • Thanks FR. Peter...
  • It's a bit of a tricky issue for someone who wants to be a conservative and traditional Orthodox.

    On the one hand you don't want to consider changing the calendar, but on the other hand it is clearly not what the Fathers intended to celebrate Christmas in the middle of Summer. (I appreciate that the Australians have to manage this Lol).

    Father Peter
  • There is also a really good reason to reset the Calendar.  If the days keep marching forward and the Resurrection stays within the expected season, then there will come a day when we will celebrate Christmas and the Resurrection on the same day.  Or if I'm mistaken, then the Resurrection would be celebrated in the winter.
  • DEAr ilovesaintmark,
    That was the exact point an old (Ethiopian I guess) member made before but their opinions were not taken seriously enough, and I think he may have deactivated his account. It is an issue that needs tackling hopefully in the near future ...
  • I believe His Holiness has made it clear that this issue is not open for discussion or negotiation during his papacy.  He said that the next pope can deal with the issue.
  • THat's really interesting. I never heard that; so can I ask on what grounds did his holiness say so, and why did Fr. Peter not bring this subject up before then?
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