While some have already put away the holiday decorations, around the world, Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas Day on Tuesday.
Orthodox Christianity has around 300 million adherents primarily in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and the Middle East.
The difference in the Dec. 25 and Jan. 7 dates has to do with different calendars, namely the Julian and Gregorian. The latter was an update to the former that wasn’t readily adopted by all countries. Because of this, most orthodox churches still use the old Julian calendar.
New Glasgow resident Liya Robertson, a native of Ufa, the captial city of Bashkortostan in the Ural Mountains of Russia, remembers that for a long time, people weren’t able to practise their religion.
“Orthodox Christmas was really not a big deal during Soviet times,” she recalled. “Many celebrated it in their kitchens, in secret.”
The USSR was at odds with organized religion, pursuing a policy of official atheism in the 1960s.
Since the fall of communism in 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church has seen its membership grow.
“People are attending services more often,” said Robertson. “Though after 70 years of no religion, it takes some time for people to feel it in their hearts.”
White cloth is used on dinner tables to symbolize purity and the cloth that baby Jesus was wrapped in. In some countries, straw may be placed on these tables to symbolize the simplicity of the place where Jesus was born.
She recalled that the Orthodox Christmas calls for cake and dumplings.
“Things are slowly coming back in Russia,” said Robertson. “For some, they go to church because it’s fashionable but others believe in their heart.”
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