The Greek Orthodox Church like the other Christian churches celebrates
Christmas on December 25th. The Catholic and Orthodox church were united for
over one thousand years and the celebration of Christ's birth remains the same
date in both churches. To the Greek people Christmas is second only to
Easter in terms of importance.
Greeks place the greatest importance on the birth of Christ rather than on "Santa Claus -
Saint Nicholas". The probable reason for this is that Christmas gifts
are not exchanged on Christmas in Greece and in Cyprus. Rather Greeks exchange
gifts on St. Basil's Day, "New Years Day."
It was nearly one hundred years after the celebration of Epiphany (January 6 -
The manifestation of Christ's power, and his ability to perform miracles) that
Christmas began to be celebrated. It is believed that the nativity was set
on December 25th by a Roman bishop around the third century A.D.
Saint Basil and Saint Gregory tried in vain to create a
distinct difference between the two dates, calling one Epiphany and the other
Theophany-Nativity. Epiphany was the more significant of the two dates,
yet their efforts were unsuccessful in making
December 25th less significant than January 6th.
It is believed that Christmas was chosen on this day in attempt to
weaken the hold of a Pagan god. For a very long time Christ's birth was
celebrated on many different days, and in fact not even the exact year of his
birth is known! What is known is that on December 25th a Persian god by
the name of Mithras, "The sun god" was celebrated.
The Pagans were unwilling to give up their holy day which resulted in
another one being introduced in its' place, one that would be seen as just as significant!
This allowed for an easier conversion of the Pagans to Christianity, as the
Pagans would be able to celebrate another God in the place of their previous god
on the same date.
It should be noted that compromises were never made on Orthodox dogma
and tradition by celebrating Christmas on December 25th. The Orthodox church has remained the
same for virtually two thousand years. Mithras was a Pagan sun god allowing a
virtually perfect transition to the Christian God of light. There was some
resistance within the early Christian church in adopting December 25th as
Christ's birth date, this was due to a possible misrepresentation of a new Christian
holiday by some, and a fear of anything Pagan.