Orthodox Bulgarians Mark Christmas Earlier than Russians, Serbs

Society | December 25, 2002, Wednesday // 00:00

Bulgarian orthodox Christians that constitute 82.6% of the country's population will celebrate Christmas on December 25 together with most Christians but unlike the orthodox believers in Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia and Serbia. The reason for this difference is not a row or a schism as it is largely misunderstood, representatives of the Holy Synod in Bulgaria told novinite.com. Only four of all nineteen local orthodox churches - namely those in Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia and Serbia, use the old Julian calendar that fixes Christmas on January 7. Bulgaria's Orthodox Church turned to the reformed Julian calendar on December 20, 1968. Since then, Bulgaria has celebrated Christmas for three days starting on December 25 as the most of the Christian world. However, "orthodox" Easter rarely coincides with catholic and protestant celebrations. Priests master a special "science" taught in orthodox academies so that they can calculate the Easter date that is different every year and is honored by all nineteen orthodox churches. For orthodox Christians, Christmas comes after 40 days and nights of fasting. Throughout the fasting period, they should avoid animal products as well as alcohol. Even the festive dinner on the eve of Christmas on December 24 should include no meat, cheese, milk, eggs and animal oils. Bulgaria's Orthodox Church recommends 14 different foods on the Christmas-eve meal (salt, pepper, sugar are seen as separate foods). After the festive mass starting 12:00 am on December 25, all should drink a sip of wine so that divine blessing should come upon them as fasting is over.

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