Christmas is a special time of year for Eastern Orthodox Christians. Twelve percent of the world’s Christians wait until January 7 to celebrate the holiday, which is a thousand years older than the Western calendar. This tradition has many observances, including fasting, food, and gifts. Despite the similarities, however, there are several major differences between Christmas in the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christian churches.
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The origins of Christmas for the Eastern Orthodox Church are unknown, but the Christian festival was based on the same time and place as that of the Western church. According to the New Testament, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Palestine, during the Christmas season. The gospels tell us that Jesus was born in a cave. He was later baptized and celebrated as the Son of God on the Feast of the Epiphany. In eastern churches, the holiday is observed on January 6, while in western churches it is celebrated on December 25. Initially, the focus of the festival was not the birth of Jesus, but rather the various aspects of his manifestation, such as the birth in the cave, the adoration of the Magi, his baptism in the Jordan, and his first miracle in Cana in Galile.
The Christmas Eve service will likely involve a large church service. Some Orthodox Christians choose to fast, while others host a Holy Supper. During the feast, the twelve apostles are remembranced by eating a variety of foods. For example, in the Russian Orthodox Church, Christmas Eve celebrations often include beet salad and borscht, along with boiled potatoes and onions. In addition to these, some families serve piroshki (sauerkraut dumplings), which are believed to represent good fortune.
The traditions of Christmas for the Eastern Orthodox church are very different from those of the Western Christian faith. For example, Orthodox Christians typically prepare 12 lean dishes for Christmas Eve dinner. In Western Christian cultures, a meal is often served that contains turkey or Christmas pudding. In contrast, the Eastern Orthodox Church focuses on the celebration of the birth of Christ. In this way, the holiday is celebrated as a time for praising Jesus and bringing him joy to others.
Traditional Russian Christmas Eve meals include a traditional “kutia” dish, made with whole wheat, poppy seeds, raisins, and walnuts. The meal also includes fried fish and beetroot soup.
As Advent approaches, the Orthodox Christian world is turning to the season of Jesus’ birth. The season is known as the Nativity and in preparation for it, Eastern Christians observe the 40-day Nativity Fast. In some countries, dinner tables are covered with white cloth, while in others, a tablecloth is covered with straw to symbolize the simplicity of the birth of Jesus. Candles are also used to represent the light of Christ. Once the fast has ended, the church prepares for a festive Christmas meal.
For Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Nativity Fast is one of four Canonical Fasting Seasons throughout the year. While it is less strict than other fasting periods, the fast is still a time for repentance and purification. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, fasting is an important part of the Christian faith, and it is viewed as a way to regain one’s innocence and strength. Fasting is observed on certain feast days and on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the year.
Christmas food for Eastern Orthodox Christians is different from the traditional western version. In the Eastern Orthodox church, the Christmas Eve meal is a big event. Most Orthodox Christians fast for the first few days before the feast. Some also choose to host a Holy Supper to commemorate Christ’s twelve disciples. Some traditional food for Eastern Orthodox Christmas Eve celebrations includes beet salad, borscht, and boiled potatoes with onions. Raisins are often added to the meal, as they represent good fortune. Other food items include piroshki, which are dumplings made of sauerkraut.
In Eastern Orthodox countries, Christmas Eve dinner is a fast-free meal. Instead of a wafer, Eastern religions share a bread called prosphoron. This wheat bread is often sprinkled with honey. They also serve 12 other traditional Christmas dishes. One of the traditional dishes is kolivo, which translates as “richness”. A traditional dessert is borscht, a soup made of cabbage. Poppy seeds are also consumed during this time, and they are added to a common dish.
Christmas is a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Many Orthodox Christians use a white table cloth to decorate the table to represent the white cloth that Jesus was wrapped in when he was born. They also use a nativity scene and other decorations to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas in the Eastern Orthodox Church is a time of peace and love. The traditional Christmas meal is known as the Holy Supper, and the food is primarily fish and bread. Meat is generally avoided. Some Orthodox churches in the United States will also host a special liturgy, lighting a fire with palms and burning frankincense to honor the three wise men.
Many Eastern Orthodox churches do not take down their Christmas decorations until after Epiphany, the Sunday after the Epiphany. During this time, the faithful are required to glorify Jesus Christ.
Fasting on Christmas Day
For Orthodox Christians, fasting on Christmas Day is a way of celebrating the birth of the Savior. This day of observance can be difficult for some. However, with a little guidance from your priest, you can follow the fasting rules. The most important thing to remember is not to deprive yourself. Orthodox Christians should not fast for more than 24 hours.
While fasting can be difficult, it is necessary to observe it for the spiritual benefits it can bring. It strengthens the soul, increases the riches of the body, and raises good aspirations in the heart. The Fathers of the Church have listed the main fasts and their order of appearance in the liturgical calendar.