Old Christmas Day

 Anne here, with the last of our daily Yuletide posts. It's Twelfth Night, Epiphany, Old Christmas Day, Christmas Day for some, Theofania if you're Greek, or merely the 6th January, depending on where you stand — and apologies to all the many other groups I've left out. Whatever, it's a significant date for a good many people around the world. 800px-Cross_being_thrown_at_Theophany

I've mentioned the ones I'm most familiar with. I live in a city with a huge population of Greeks (the biggest Greek city outside of Greece) so we know all about Theofania and the Blessing of the Waters ceremony. It's a lot easier here for the young men to dive for the cross, as it's summer. When I saw it years ago in Greece, they had to break the ice before diving in. Brrr!

1varenykyOne of my oldest friends is Ukranian, and like most Eastern Catholics (or Orthodox people) they're preparing for Christmas now, and their kitchens might look something like this. Those yummy little things are called varenyky. (Thanks, Michelle for the photo.)

Other people are taking down their Christmas decorations, because it's supposed to be bad luck to leave them up after the twelfth day of Christmas.

And for some folks in Regency England, it was called Old Christmas Day, because the calendar only changed in 1752, and the old folks remembered when the government stole eleven days from them.

The reason for that was all to do with the measuring of time, and the astronomical calculations of the length of a year. In Julius Caesar's time, Romans decided to measure the length of a year by the sun (instead of the phases of the moon.) One year was made up of 365 and a quarter days, organized into twelve months. However their calculations were not quite accurate enough and by the 16th century the calendar was ten days out.

In 1582, Pope Gregory redefined the official length of a year, deleted the ten extra days, and most of Catholic Europe obeyed. It was called the Gregorian Calendar.

England, however was Protestant and ignored the Pope's edict, and by the 18th century, England was eleven days ahead of the rest of Europe. Something had to give. An Act was passed and September 1752 was the target. One day it was 2nd Sept, the next it was the 14th. Before this change, however, Christmas Day was celebrated on 6th January — hence Old Christmas Day.

Does 6th January have any significance for you? I'm working on my next book, and in the breaks I'm taking down my (fairly minimalist) Christmas decorations. What are you doing today?

45 thoughts on “Old Christmas Day”

  1. Oh, wow, that picture of the cooking… I actually thought you’d downloaded a picture of my late-grandmother’s kitchen from my blog! It’s almost the same!
    It annoys me immensely when everyone says “Orthodox Christmas” and “Orthodox Easter” because we’re Ukrainian Catholic and have always celebrated on the 6th to the 7th.
    We just had our big Christmas dinner a few hours ago, and will celebrate again tomorrow, and then New Year next week.
    I’m really glad you explained the difference in dates, because it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with calendar changes.

    Reply
  2. Oh, wow, that picture of the cooking… I actually thought you’d downloaded a picture of my late-grandmother’s kitchen from my blog! It’s almost the same!
    It annoys me immensely when everyone says “Orthodox Christmas” and “Orthodox Easter” because we’re Ukrainian Catholic and have always celebrated on the 6th to the 7th.
    We just had our big Christmas dinner a few hours ago, and will celebrate again tomorrow, and then New Year next week.
    I’m really glad you explained the difference in dates, because it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with calendar changes.

    Reply
  3. Oh, wow, that picture of the cooking… I actually thought you’d downloaded a picture of my late-grandmother’s kitchen from my blog! It’s almost the same!
    It annoys me immensely when everyone says “Orthodox Christmas” and “Orthodox Easter” because we’re Ukrainian Catholic and have always celebrated on the 6th to the 7th.
    We just had our big Christmas dinner a few hours ago, and will celebrate again tomorrow, and then New Year next week.
    I’m really glad you explained the difference in dates, because it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with calendar changes.

    Reply
  4. Oh, wow, that picture of the cooking… I actually thought you’d downloaded a picture of my late-grandmother’s kitchen from my blog! It’s almost the same!
    It annoys me immensely when everyone says “Orthodox Christmas” and “Orthodox Easter” because we’re Ukrainian Catholic and have always celebrated on the 6th to the 7th.
    We just had our big Christmas dinner a few hours ago, and will celebrate again tomorrow, and then New Year next week.
    I’m really glad you explained the difference in dates, because it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with calendar changes.

    Reply
  5. Oh, wow, that picture of the cooking… I actually thought you’d downloaded a picture of my late-grandmother’s kitchen from my blog! It’s almost the same!
    It annoys me immensely when everyone says “Orthodox Christmas” and “Orthodox Easter” because we’re Ukrainian Catholic and have always celebrated on the 6th to the 7th.
    We just had our big Christmas dinner a few hours ago, and will celebrate again tomorrow, and then New Year next week.
    I’m really glad you explained the difference in dates, because it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with calendar changes.

    Reply
  6. It was always very handy that my oldest brother’s birthday was January 6th. We took down everything on his Birthday/Epiphany and it was all special.

    Reply
  7. It was always very handy that my oldest brother’s birthday was January 6th. We took down everything on his Birthday/Epiphany and it was all special.

    Reply
  8. It was always very handy that my oldest brother’s birthday was January 6th. We took down everything on his Birthday/Epiphany and it was all special.

    Reply
  9. It was always very handy that my oldest brother’s birthday was January 6th. We took down everything on his Birthday/Epiphany and it was all special.

    Reply
  10. It was always very handy that my oldest brother’s birthday was January 6th. We took down everything on his Birthday/Epiphany and it was all special.

    Reply
  11. Epiphany doesn’t have great significance in my personal life. When my children were little, we used it as a measure for when the decorations must be retired for the year. Since I was a single working parent, we couldn’t always used the actual day, but instead used the weekend closest to January 6. When the sixth came on Wednesday,as this year, it meant that the children had a few extra days for decorations; decorations would have been packed away on Saturday, January 9.

    Reply
  12. Epiphany doesn’t have great significance in my personal life. When my children were little, we used it as a measure for when the decorations must be retired for the year. Since I was a single working parent, we couldn’t always used the actual day, but instead used the weekend closest to January 6. When the sixth came on Wednesday,as this year, it meant that the children had a few extra days for decorations; decorations would have been packed away on Saturday, January 9.

    Reply
  13. Epiphany doesn’t have great significance in my personal life. When my children were little, we used it as a measure for when the decorations must be retired for the year. Since I was a single working parent, we couldn’t always used the actual day, but instead used the weekend closest to January 6. When the sixth came on Wednesday,as this year, it meant that the children had a few extra days for decorations; decorations would have been packed away on Saturday, January 9.

    Reply
  14. Epiphany doesn’t have great significance in my personal life. When my children were little, we used it as a measure for when the decorations must be retired for the year. Since I was a single working parent, we couldn’t always used the actual day, but instead used the weekend closest to January 6. When the sixth came on Wednesday,as this year, it meant that the children had a few extra days for decorations; decorations would have been packed away on Saturday, January 9.

    Reply
  15. Epiphany doesn’t have great significance in my personal life. When my children were little, we used it as a measure for when the decorations must be retired for the year. Since I was a single working parent, we couldn’t always used the actual day, but instead used the weekend closest to January 6. When the sixth came on Wednesday,as this year, it meant that the children had a few extra days for decorations; decorations would have been packed away on Saturday, January 9.

    Reply
  16. It doesn’t really have much significance for me, except that it is two days before my son’s birthday, and so when he was young Christmas decorations had to be down before birthday celebrations could begin. So I got in the habit of taking my decorations down on 6th January. Took me some time to work it was also twelfth night. I was never sure if I should count forward from 25th or 26th dec, and if the hole of 6th Jan should be counted or 6th was 12th night. Very confusing. Still not sure I have it right.

    Reply
  17. It doesn’t really have much significance for me, except that it is two days before my son’s birthday, and so when he was young Christmas decorations had to be down before birthday celebrations could begin. So I got in the habit of taking my decorations down on 6th January. Took me some time to work it was also twelfth night. I was never sure if I should count forward from 25th or 26th dec, and if the hole of 6th Jan should be counted or 6th was 12th night. Very confusing. Still not sure I have it right.

    Reply
  18. It doesn’t really have much significance for me, except that it is two days before my son’s birthday, and so when he was young Christmas decorations had to be down before birthday celebrations could begin. So I got in the habit of taking my decorations down on 6th January. Took me some time to work it was also twelfth night. I was never sure if I should count forward from 25th or 26th dec, and if the hole of 6th Jan should be counted or 6th was 12th night. Very confusing. Still not sure I have it right.

    Reply
  19. It doesn’t really have much significance for me, except that it is two days before my son’s birthday, and so when he was young Christmas decorations had to be down before birthday celebrations could begin. So I got in the habit of taking my decorations down on 6th January. Took me some time to work it was also twelfth night. I was never sure if I should count forward from 25th or 26th dec, and if the hole of 6th Jan should be counted or 6th was 12th night. Very confusing. Still not sure I have it right.

    Reply
  20. It doesn’t really have much significance for me, except that it is two days before my son’s birthday, and so when he was young Christmas decorations had to be down before birthday celebrations could begin. So I got in the habit of taking my decorations down on 6th January. Took me some time to work it was also twelfth night. I was never sure if I should count forward from 25th or 26th dec, and if the hole of 6th Jan should be counted or 6th was 12th night. Very confusing. Still not sure I have it right.

    Reply
  21. Yes, I can’t believe I thought that! I’m so glad to see how many Ukrainians in Australia are still following all of the traditions (in the US, a lot of Ukrainians just celebrate on the 25th of December now).
    I bet someone in my family knows your friend. My aunt ran our branch of CYM (the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic organisation) and she knows pretty much everyone.

    Reply
  22. Yes, I can’t believe I thought that! I’m so glad to see how many Ukrainians in Australia are still following all of the traditions (in the US, a lot of Ukrainians just celebrate on the 25th of December now).
    I bet someone in my family knows your friend. My aunt ran our branch of CYM (the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic organisation) and she knows pretty much everyone.

    Reply
  23. Yes, I can’t believe I thought that! I’m so glad to see how many Ukrainians in Australia are still following all of the traditions (in the US, a lot of Ukrainians just celebrate on the 25th of December now).
    I bet someone in my family knows your friend. My aunt ran our branch of CYM (the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic organisation) and she knows pretty much everyone.

    Reply
  24. Yes, I can’t believe I thought that! I’m so glad to see how many Ukrainians in Australia are still following all of the traditions (in the US, a lot of Ukrainians just celebrate on the 25th of December now).
    I bet someone in my family knows your friend. My aunt ran our branch of CYM (the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic organisation) and she knows pretty much everyone.

    Reply
  25. Yes, I can’t believe I thought that! I’m so glad to see how many Ukrainians in Australia are still following all of the traditions (in the US, a lot of Ukrainians just celebrate on the 25th of December now).
    I bet someone in my family knows your friend. My aunt ran our branch of CYM (the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic organisation) and she knows pretty much everyone.

    Reply

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