While Protestant and Catholic churches prepare for the feast of Ephiphany this weekend, Orthodox believers are preparing for their Christmas celebrations.
The Julian Calendar, which is used by the 200 Million Orthodox strong church to calculate its annual pattern of feast days, has Christmas falling on January 7th.
But the date is not the only difference, as the Orthodox Christmas is more of a solemn affair than the tinsel and Santa style Western festivities.
Instead of presents and puddings, religious celebrations are the main focus, and the day is preceded by a 40 day period of fasting and prayer.
The Julian Calendar is named after Julius Caesar, and actually predates the Gregorian calendar which is used by Protestant and Catholic churches to arrange their celebrations.
Dating back to 45 BC, the Julian Calendar is only slightly different to the Gregorian, having 365 days divided into 12 months and allowing for a leap day every four years.
But the Gregorian calendar allows for a subtle time difference which means that the Julian Calendar becomes out of sync with equinox times by three days, every 400 years.
All of which means that while Catholic and Protestant Christians prepare to celebrate the Epiphany, the traditional point to remember the visit of the Magi, (and are removing their Christmas decorations) Orthodox Christians are still fasting in preparation for Christmas.
Despite it being seen as a predominantly Eastern church, a number of Orthodox Christians do now live in the UK, following migration from countries like Russia and Greece. Moreover some indigenous self-styled ‘Celtic’ believers also follow the patterns of the Orthodox church, which they see as a very ancient form of Christianity.
The Orthodox Epiphany, which to complicate matters further is when Orthodox believers celebrate the baptism of Jesus, will be on Thursday January 19th.
January 5th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross