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Orthodox Christmas Day in Canada

Many Orthodox Christians in Canada celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. This date works to be December 25 in the Julian calendar, which pre-dates the Gregorian calendar. It is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be the son of God.

Is Orthodox Christmas Day a Public Holiday?

Orthodox Christmas Day is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Parliament Hill Canada decorated for Christmas

Christmas lights on Ottawa's Parliament Hill have in recent times remained lit until early January to take into account Christmas Day according to the Julian calendar.

©iStockphoto.com/hsandler

What Do People Do?

Christmas in Canada’s Orthodox Christian communities is a time of importance when rich cultural traditions are observed. Many people attend a special church liturgy on Christmas Day. Christmas lights on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which is Canada’s capital, have in recent times remained lit until January 8. This was due to lobbying by ethnic communities of Orthodox Christian faith that celebrate Christmas on January 7 in the Gregorian calendar (or December 25 in the Julian calendar).

It is important to note that the Christmas Day date varies among Orthodox Christians. For example, many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, which is December 25 in the Julian calendar. However, there are others who follow the revised Julian calendar, so they celebrate the day on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar. Some Orthodox Christian churches have a combined Christmas and New Year celebration on dates close to the end of the year in the Gregorian calendar. Armenian Orthodox Christians in Canada celebrate their Christmas Day on January 6 in the Gregorian calendar.

Many Orthodox Christians in countries such as Canada fast before Christmas Day. Many people identify the Nativity Fast as the period of preparing to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth. It is believed that fasting helps people shift their focus from themselves to others, spending less time worrying about food and using more time in increased prayer and caring for the poor. In return, fasting before the Nativity enables one to fully enjoy, appreciate and celebrate the Nativity of Christ.

Public Life

Orthodox Christmas Day on or near January 7 is not a nationwide public holiday in Canada.  However, parking and traffic around Orthodox Christian churches may be busy around this time of the year.

Background

Many Orthodox churches in Canada recognize the holiday dates according to the Julian calendar. Christmas is still on December 25 in the Julian calendar so the January 7 date is only valid between 1901 and 2100 The Gregorian date for Orthodox Christmas will be January 8 in 2101 if the Julian calendar is still used.

The Julian calendar was revised in 1923 and this version is more in line with the Gregorian calendar. Some Orthodox churches follow the revised Julian calendar but many Orthodox churches still follow the more traditional Julian calendar, which has the original dates for Christian observances prior to the Gregorian calendar’s introduction.

Symbols

For many Orthodox Christians, Christmas Day is not about Christmas characters that have become popular through commercialization.  Christmas Day is a time to heal the soul. It is also a time of peace and unity.

White cloth is used on dinner tables in some countries to symbolize purity and the cloth that baby Jesus was wrapped in. Straw may be placed on these tables to symbolize the simplicity of the place where Jesus was born.  Candles may be lit to represent the light of Christ and the festive Christmas meal represents the end of fasting.

About Orthodox Christmas Day in other countries

Read more about Orthodox Christmas Day.

Orthodox Christmas Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010ThuJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2011FriJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2012SatJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2013MonJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2014TueJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2015WedJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2016ThuJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2017SatJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2018SunJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2019MonJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 
2020TueJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayOrthodox 

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