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Why Copts celebrate Christmas on 7 January
Like most Orthodox churches, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 7 January
Sherry El-Gergawi, Monday 6 Jan 2014
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Copts celebrate Christmas
- An Egyptian family pose for a photograph near Christmas trees and a Santa Claus mannequin in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 (Photo: AP)

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.  

 





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Eva Ibrahim
09-01-2014 02:27am
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Unity
I agree with the above thought since Dec. 25 is the correct one scientifically because of the solar year corrction. It is very difficult to explain to young children living in western countries why we have 2 dates for the birth of Jesus. Also the kids take 2 weeks Xmas holidays and go back to start the second semester. They can not take any more days off. They end up not attending the mass or taking Jan. 7 off.
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Eva Ibrahim
09-01-2014 02:27am
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Unity
I agree with the above thought since Dec. 25 is the correct one scientifically because of the solar year corrction. It is very difficult to explain to young children living in western countries why we have 2 dates for the birth of Jesus. Also the kids take 2 weeks Xmas holidays and go back to start the second semester. They can not take any more days off. They end up not attending the mass or taking Jan. 7 off.
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Ephrem Setargew Kassa
08-01-2014 05:15pm
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The eastern church
I'm an Ethiopian following the easten church doctrine. The explanation given above by Ahram is correct but not the only reason there are some other additional reasons that the orthodox churchs differs the chatolic or the protestants in religious celeberations basically these differences aroses as it said by Ahram one by Julian & Gregorean calculation the other is the bases of calander. I think the difference appeared in 451years after the split of the chatolic church and the 318 fathers conferece in NEKEA before that there was no differences. Ephrem S.
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Etsy
08-01-2014 04:57am
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holiday
This holiday was done in the 7 of January for the Copts for one reason. Jesus is Jewish and he was Circomozized at that day. What do U think other Sherry?
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Sherry El- Gergawi
09-01-2014 12:21am
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Writer's replay
Churches around the world agreed to celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ on 29 Kiahk (7 January in the Julian calendar) and the Coptic Church celebrates the feast of the circumcision of Christ, eight days after his birth in accordance with Jewish tradition, on 15 January (6 Toba in the Coptic calendar).
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Hesham Hamza
07-01-2014 11:47pm
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Always wanted to know
Great explanation
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Elhami Abdou
07-01-2014 04:09am
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CAN WE CHANGE TO THE 25TH OF JANUARY?
Since the exact date of Christ's birth is unknown, and since the churches of the world arbitrarily selected the 25th of December ( 29th of Coptic month Kiahk based on Julian Calendar) to celebrate Christmas, and since the world has changed to the Gregorian Calender to be in accord with the Solar year while the Coptic churches did not change to the Gregorian Calender, the 29th of Kiahk started to fall on the 7th of January. Then why not deviate from the Coptic calendar only on one day a year, that is December the 25th for the sake of celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ with the rest of the World.
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Ephrem
08-01-2014 05:25pm
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The idea
I apprciate your with to be united but the correct calandar is the coptic one 7 January due to concrete riligous reason it good if the world come to the coptic/ eastern calander

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