Skip to comments.Why Copts celebrate Christmas on 7 January
Posted on 01/06/2014 7:07:12 PM PST by Texas Fossil
On Tuesday 7 January, Coptic Orthodox Christians who comprise 90 percent of Egypt's Christians will break their 43-day fast and celebrate Christmas. The festival comes almost two weeks after most Western denominations, including Catholics and Protestants, held their celebrations on 25 December.
Ahram Online asked Bishop Abram of the Fayoum Diocese to explain why there was a difference in the dates; he stressed that the difference in fact results from the use of different calendars, not from any underlying theological dispute.
Although the exact date of Jesus' birth was -- and remains -- unknown, within the first few centuries after his death, churches around the world agreed to celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ on 25 December (29 Kiahk in the Coptic calendar), most probably to replace the pagan feast celebrating the Roman winter solstice which continued to be observed until then.
Bishop Abram argues that celebrating the birth of Christ, considered by Christians to be "the light of the world" is also astronomically apt, since night-time begins to shorten and daylight to lengthen in the middle of December.
The different dates of the celebration in the modern period are a result of a change in calendar; while Western churches follow the Gregorian calendar, Orthodox churches continue to follow the older Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar who introduced it in 46 BC), which in turn is in line with the ancient Coptic calendar.
Until the Julian calendar, the date of 25 December and 29 Kiahk in the Coptic calendar happened on the same day each year. But the introduction of the Gregorian calendar changed this alignment.
In the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII of the Roman Catholic Church had his astronomers study the calendar, and they realised that the Julian year was 11 minutes shorter than the actual solar year. Over time, the 11 minutes had added up the equivalent of three extra days being added to the calendar every 400 years. The calendar date was becoming out of sync with the solar year.
To correct this, Pope Gregory's recalculated the whole system and cut out the extra days for his new Gregorian calendar. As a result of the difference, the Julian calendar is now 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, and 25 December in the Julian system falls on 7 January in the Gregorian system.
Although the Gregorian calendar was adopted by Khedive Ismail in 1875, the Coptic Orthodox Church has continued to use the older calendar, and 29 Kiahk (or 25 December in the Julian calendar) falls, under the Gregorian system, on 7 January.
This is an observance of Christmas that I was not aware of. The explanation makes sense to me.
Many God Bless and Protect Coptic Christians. They have been through a lot of persecution in the past year.
Merry Christmas to my Coptic brothers and sisters. I saw a wonderful video where a group of Muslim women ‘decked out in the traditional Islamic garb, brought a blind child to the church, with nowehere else to turn. The priest, who I think might have actually been the Coptic Pope, then healed him and the women rejoiced.
I would add the Christian Assyrians to that list as well. The Muslim invaders basically wiped them out. Only a small segment left in Syria (which Obama’s buddies fighting Assad are trying to kill).
O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth
who are in all places and fillest all things:
Treasury of good things and Giver of life:
Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain,
and save our souls, O good One.
Thanks for the insight in Syria.
Some Old Order Amish are “old calenderists”. “Old Michaelmass” (October 11) is one of their solemn holy days.
Thanks for that report.
Old Order Amish celebrate on January 6. They call it Old Christmas.
Catholics, Lutherans and some protestants due celebrate Epiphany around the same time of Eastern Christmas.
Some of the differences are more fundamental, since the split from the Orthodox-Catholic branch of the Christian faith was very early. But yes, to the Western sensibility, the Copts are “hyper-orthodox.”
The Ancient Egyptians embrached Jesus early on and after some desputes with their Gnostic Brothers they became the beacon for the new Christian Church spreading into Africa to the Sudan and Ethopia. Blacks were celebrating Jesus while much of Europe was still pagan. The Copts are perhaps the most pure to the ancient ways and beliefs. This may well be why apparitions of Mary and Christ are experienced by them. The cornerstone of Ancient Egyptian religion was the concept of eternal life, one that is key to the Christian Church as well.
Merry Christmas to all the Copts and Eastern Orthodox Christtians!
There are Christian Assyrians in CA, in the Central Valley— maybe more than are left in Syria. I don’t know.
The celebration of the Nativity on December 25th is very ancient. It is NOT pagan in origin, and we may well know what date Christ was born.
Orthodox Russians and Serbs (among others) celebrated Christmas on January 7th. But Orthodox Greeks, Bulgarians, the Orthodox Church in America, etc. celebrated it on December 25th. All Orthodox celebrate Pascha and Pentecost on the same day. This year the Eastern and Western Easters coincide as well.
It is a blessing that all Christendom will be united, calendarwise, at the Feast of feast....even though it will create scheduling and logistical problems for those of us living in two worlds who lack the sanctity to be bilocational.
Thanks for the explanation.