Melkam Gena! መልካም ገና Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas መልካም ገና in January?

Why Do you Celebrate Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th?

While many people will be rushing about the different malls, department stores and shopping districts to buy tonnes of Christmas gifts to celebrate the holiday, a large part of the Christan population will be celebrating the birth of Christ on January 7th.

The standard belief is that the birth of Christ is on December 25th,
but the actual birth of the Lord is still unknown

While I’m not a devout church goer, for some reason this part of the Ethiopian Orthodox belief, that I grew up being influenced by, remained part of me. Maybe it’s because It’s a chance to be unique, or simply it’s the norm, so accept it blindly, or maybe I simply prefer it like this. Honestly, I have no answer to any of the questions I have received over the years.

Most people that I come across refer to it as “Old Christmas”. I guess this is basically what it is. But I guess if that’s the case, why not celebrate it like the Egyptians on May 20th? Depending on the Calendar that you’re following the days either coincides with the 25th or the 8th.

Julian Calendar

The Julian Calendar, which is followed mostly by the Russian, Ukranian, and Serbian Orthodox Churches observe Christmas on or around the 7th of January (according to the Gregorian Calendar). Julius Casear in 46 BC adopted this Calendar with 365 days divided in 12 months, and a lead day is added every 4 years.

Augustus, however corrected the calculation after 36 years and skipped several leap years to align the overall year. As a result the Jualian calendar gained a day every 134 years. So by 1582 is was ten days out of alignment.

Gregorian Calendar

For the Gregorian date, the calendar date observed for Christmas is January 8th only in 2101. However, currently observes the 25th. This calendar was adopted by Protestant countries and most Catholic Countries.

The weird dates come from Pope Gregory XIII as he decreed the following:

  1. In A.D. 1582, October 5th will be called October 15th.
  2. The Julian calendar should be shortened by 3 days every 400 years, by making the centenary year a normal 365-day year, not a leap year, except if its number is divisible by 400.
  3. Thus the year 1600 remained a leap year as usual, while 1700, 1800 and 1900 had only 365 days each and the year 2000 was a leap year of 366 days.

This new calendar came to be known as the Gregorian calendar, and is the common civil calendar in use in our world today.

In the year 2100 the calendars will see a change. The Julian is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian, but in the year 2101 the Julian Calendar will observe Christmas on January 8th.

Now all of this doesn’t answer why I celebrate nor does it actually convince me more, but I guess history is always fun ☺.

I think for me, I like not having to be rushed around and being told today is a day to get gifts and show my friends and family that I care about them. For me gift giving should be everyday! It should be sporadic and not tied to the amount spent. I also like the extra vacation time I get right after the New Years. Gives me time to reflect on the end of a year and start of a New Year. Nevertheless, chacun à son goût.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas today and መልካም ገና (Melkam Gena) come January 7th!

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