Orthodox Arab Americans Prepare for Christmas on Jan. 7th
BY: Nirsreen Eadeh/Arab America Contributing Writer
While most Americans are getting back to their daily lives in the post-holiday haze, some Arab Americans are getting ready to finally celebrate Christmas. Throughout the Arab world and in the U.S., Orthodox Christians and Egyptian Coptic Christians are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 7. Orthodox and Coptic Christians observe Christmas according to the Julian calendar created by Julius Caesar in 45 BC.
Today, most of the world operates on the Gregorian calendar created by Pope Gregory of Rome in 1582, which observes Christmas on December 25. However, many Christians continue to celebrate Christmas on the traditional Julian day of January 7 within Eastern Europe and Mediterranean Arab countries, such as Egypt, Syria, and Palestine.
As part of their festivities, Orthodox and Coptic Christians will fast for many days leading up to Christmas Eve, then enjoy a feast after Midnight Mass in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The holiday is seen as a time of renewal and includes three days of worship: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas.
According to Eastern Orthodox priests, Christmas for them is less sentimental than in the West, and focuses more on the aspects of the incarnation and salvation of Christ. While many Orthodox and Coptic Christians indulge in the Western-style Christmas embellishments, such as trees, decorations, gifts, and caroling, a stronger emphasis is placed on the miraculous work of God.
Today, Arab Americans live in a predominately non-Orthodox society, bringing them two Christmas celebrations a year. Joining them are many Arab American Muslims who enjoy exchanging gifts and attending light shows throughout the holiday season, too. This Orthodox Christmas, Arab America wishes everyone a joyous and fulfilling holiday!