Monday, January 7, 2013

Armenian priests and the faithful celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem
"Its Still Christmas Day" - David

Yes, today you can say Merry Christmas to a lot of people. These are people who come from the Eastern Orthodox churches, the second largest branch of Christianity.

Under the old Julian Calendar, Christmas was celebrated on December 25. There are many explanations for this date. One opinion is that Zacharias went into the temple at the time of the Day of Atonement, and heard the angel speak to him. Supposedly, then, on March 25 Elizabeth was six month's pregnant when Mary came for a visit.   If John the Baptist was born about June 21, that would have Mary giving birth six months later.

The Julian Calendar was agreed upon in 46BC by Julius Caesar, and promulgated in 45 BC. It was known at least 200 years before that the earth's year was 365 1/4 days. The Julian Calendar made provision for an extra day every four years.

The Council of Nicaea, in 325, fell in a year when Easter took place on March 25 and Christmas was already being commorated on December 25. Over the next 1,200 years the dates for Christmas "migrated", at the rate of about 11 minutes a year, so that by 1582 Christmas was "taking place" on January 7. Pope Gregory instigated the "Gregorian Calendar", immediately accepted by the countries in Southern and Western Europe. England accepted this new calendar only in 1752; Russia in 1918, and lastly Greece in 1923.

A Reformed Gregorian Calendar was organized about 100 years ago. The date kept Christmas 12 days after "Western Christmas", that is 12 days between December 25 and January 7. There's a song about that.

Churches, and families, that celebrate today speak: Albanian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Coptic (Arabic), Greek, Hungarian, Macedonian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Turkish and Ukranian, - plus all the dialects associated with the nations in Eastern Europe.

Dates, celebrations, music, poems and observations of Christmas have evolved constantly over the last 1,000 years, and each Christian language group seems to have their own traditions. Even the calendar isn't that "simple". I was in Bethlehem one year and the last possible day for Christmas, according to the position of the moon, had pilgrims still streaming there on January 19.

It's still OK to wish someone Merry Christmas today! Go ahead. Bless someone today!

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