It is rarely known by non-Orthodox (and still as confusing for some Orthodox) that Russians and majority of the Eastern European Orthodox count days in accordance with the special church calendar. Julian calendar kept by the Orthodox Church of the East differs in 13 days with the secular, the so-called Gregorian, calendar… For example, the Christmas (Nativity) is celebrated on December 25th everywhere in the West, while the old calendar churches wait 13 more days till January 7th to count it as December 25th…
So, what’s with that calendar and why some Orthodox jurisdictions of the East (Western Orthodox autocephalous churches like Orthodox Church in America (OCA http://oca.org) and Greek Church in America http://www.goarch.org/ changed to a secular calendar) keep to their old-fashioned view on calendar?
The difference lies in two ways of calculating leap years – an ancient church calendar (Julian, after Julius Ceasar) calculates “00” years as leap years (1900, 2100), and a secular calendar (Gregorian, after Pope Gregory who adopted changes in 1585) does not count them as leap years. The difference increases over time, thus, by year 2100, the Russians and the rest of the old-calendar-keeping churches will celebrate Nativity 14 days later, which will fall then on the 8th of January of the Gregorian calendar.
Theological reasons were laid out in many articles and here is reprint of one of the views:
“It is obvious that the Church deliberately kept the calendar of this world in order to sanctify the time signified by it. The point was to give Christian meaning to the times and seasons, to the days of the year.
The Church cannot abandon this aspect of her mission.”
Part of a larger work reprinted from the October 1982 issue of the Dawn, published by the OCA Diocese of the South.) The Orthodox Church, January, 1983.
The Orthodox Church is the ancient church of apostolic times and this adherence to certain ancient rules is just another example of attempts to protect Christianity in its purest form, stay away from the worldly changes, keeping its focus on important and eternal aspects of faith.
Why then the Orthodox of the Western hemisphere accepted the modern calendar? Well, it just wanted to give the Orthodox kids two Christmas celebrations, two New Years, etc.
The answer to this question is still waiting to be found by the author. Any help?
In practical terms, anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of the Nativity season and extend the holidays, is welcome to try to attend the Nativity service at, say, Greek Orthodox Cathedral http://www.greekcathedral.com in downtown Columbus, and 13 days later, visit a St. Nicholas Church at King Ave. http://snwoca.org, since this OCA church follows the old calendar rule.