The Christmas Story

How we celebrate Christmas in the Balkans

Winter is here and the festive atmosphere has finally returned to the city on the Neretva river. The youngest ones are enjoying the winter atmosphere in the new winter town in Mostar.

We are also looking forward the Christmas atmosphere and decorations but how much do we really know about Christmas?

Many people think Christmas is on December the 25th and that’s all there is to Christmas. However, for many people around the world, in different countries and in different Christian traditions, Christmas lasts for a lot longer than that – and it’s even celebrated at different times!

When is Christmas celebrated?

Although December 25th is the date when most people celebrate Christmas, there are some other dates as well!

Some churches (mainly Orthodox churches) use a different calendars for their religious celebrations. Orthodox Churches in Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Ethiopia and other countries use the old ‘Julian’ calendar and people in those churches celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

Most people in the Greek Orthodox Church celebrate Christmas on December 25th. But some still use the Julian calendar and so celebrate Christmas on 7th January! Some Greek Catholics also celebrate on January 7th.

In Armenia, the Apostolic Church celebrates Christmas on January 6th. It also celebrates ‘Epiphany’ on this day.

What is Advent?

Before Christmas, many Christians use the time of Advent to prepare themselves and get ready to celebrate the joy of Christmas, when Christians celebrate of the birth of Jesus, who they believe is the Son of God.

Advent is normally a period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas. In many Orthodox and Eastern Catholics Churches Advent lasts for 40 days, starting on November 15th.

In Orthodox Churches which celebrate Christmas on 7th January, Advent start on 28th November!

During Advent many people fast (don’t eat certain foods). The types of food people give up depends on their church tradition and where in the world they live.

How about after Christmas?

After Advent, traditionally, Christmas celebrations (and often a feast!) started on Christmas Day and lasted for 12 Days – so they were known as The 12 Days of Christmas! The celebrations finished on the evening of 5th January, which is better known as Twelfth Night.

Throughout history, the 12 Days of Christmas were a time of feasting and fun.

Epiphany/Twelfth Night is also the time when it was traditional to take your Christmas decorations down – although some people leave them up until Candlemas.

When is the end of Christmas?

You might think that Christmas ends when you take the Christmas Decorations down – but it doesn’t! After both Christmas and the season of Epiphany, the end of the Christmas celebrations come on February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas, with Candlemas.


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