Christmas day is on the 25th of December or the 7th of January.

Christmas day is on the 25th of December or the 7th of January.

The Coptic Church relies on the Coptic calendar to fix the dates of the feasts and spiritual events.  The Coptic calendar is handed down to us from our Pharonic ancestors and has been followed since Christianity started in Egypt.  The Eastern churches follow the Julian calendar which stemmed from the Coptic Calendar.  As for the Western churches, the Gregorian calendar is followed which is based on the Julian calendar.

The Coptic Calendar

The Coptic a calendar is the Pharonic calendar which is the most ancient in the whole world.  Its dates back to 4,241 BC the ancient Egyptian based his calendar on the star known in Latin as “Serious”, which the Egyptians named “Sid it”.  It is the brightest star in the sky.  It belongs to the “Greatest Bear” group which is far away from the earth by 8.5 light years.  It rises in the East horizon before sunrise on the day of the river Nile flood which reaches the capital Manf.  The Egyptians calculated the days between its appearances twice, and found out that it was 365 (and a quarter) days.  Then they divided it into 3 seasons:

  1. The flood season “Akht”
  2. The seed season “Bert”
  3. The harvest season “Shamo”

Then they divided the year into 12 months, every month containing 30 days.  The remaining 5 and a quarter days were considered a small month, which they named the “small month” or El Nassy” containing 5 days each 3 years and was called simple years summing up to 365 days.  In the fourth year the days of the small month would be 6 days and it would be called a leap year, summing up to 366 days. 

Actually this division is accurate as far as the agricultural year is concerned.  That is why the Egyptians followed this calendar and did not base their calendar on the sun year.   Although they came to relate to the sun in their spiritual worship and held it holy as a god calling it Raa, adding his name to the names of the kings: “Khafraa, Mankaraa, and Raamassiss” ( ie the son of Raa).  Even the names of their cities were related to that god, “Raa” as Cairo (Karaa) (ie. The land of Raa).  The city of Raamississ in the land of Gassan (Exodus 9:11, Gen 47:11, Exodus 12:27, Numbers 33:3,6)

The Jullian Calendar

The Roman year was a solar year, divided into 12 months summing up to 365 days.  It remained as such until the era of the emperor Julius Cesar who noticed the difference between the Roman calendar and the Egyptian Calendar.  So in the year of 45 BC he gave orders to an astrologist in Alexandria named Sosigenc to consider 25th of Mach the beginning of spring.  As a result he made the Roman year identical with the Egyptian year summing up to 365 days 6 hours and a quarter day, basing his calculations on the rotation of the earth round the sun.  He designed the years to be made of 12 months only, with January 31 days, February 30 in each leap year and 29 days in the simple years.  March 31 days, April 30 days, May 31 days, June 30 days, July 30 days, August 30 days, September 30 days, October 31 days, November 30 days, and December 31 days.

When Augustus Caesartook over, he named the 8th month “August” after his name to keep his memory alive.  He made August 31 days, and shortened February to 28 days in the simple years and 29 days in the leap years.  This calendar was valid in both the East and the West until the time of Pope Gregory the 13th, the Pope of Rome.  He made changes in the year 1582; he noticed an error in the dates of the fixed feasts.  This was due to the fact that the Julian calendar was a solar calendar and was less than the Coptic Calendar by 11 minutes and 14 seconds.  As a result there appeared a time gap in the 16th century of 10 days.  So he decided to correct it, which resulted in the Gregorian calendarwhich is followed in the west to this day.

The Gregorian Calendar

Pope Gregory the 13th, Pope of Rome, noticed a difference in the dates of the fixed feasts between the current calendar and the dates of the feasts from the Nicene Council, which was based on the Coptic Calendar in 325 AD.  The difference amounted to 10 days.  The day denoting the beginning of spring March 21st (25 Baramhat) at the time of the Nicene council had become the 11th of March in 1825.  He consulted the theologians to explain why, but they stated that there was not any Theological reason for this difference but it has to do with astrological reasons.  Therefore, he consulted two astrologists namely Lilius and Calvius who explained that the reason for the difference has to do with the amount of time it takes the earth to rotate around the sun one full rotation, which is equivalent to 365 days, 5 hours, and 48 minutes and 46 seconds.    The Julian calendar calculated the rotation to be at 365 days and 6 hours.  The difference between them would be 11 minutes and 14 seconds; this would add up to an entire day every 128 years.  These days added up to 10 days between the Nicene council and the year 1825 AD.

Pope Gregory decided to correct this error so the astrologists decided on the following:  People went to sleep on the night of October 5th to wake up next morning on the 15th October thus correcting the difference that was created since the Nicene council.  Moreover a rule was set guarantee that this would not happen again in the future.  By omitting 3 days every 400 years, because every, because every 400 years contained 100 leap years according to the Julian calendar that considers the 4th year unlimited leap year.

The Gregorian calendar decided to omit the year signifying a century, that which contained two zeros on the right hand side of the for units and tens.  It’s a leap year unless it can be divided by 400 without remainder.  Therefor the years 1600 and 2000 are leap years in the both the Julian and Gregorian calendars.  But the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are considered leap years according to the Julian calendar but considered clear years according to the Gregorian calendar.

This means that there will be a 3 day difference between the Julian calendar and Gregorian calendar every 400 years.  This was done to put things back in place as was at the time of the Nicene council ie the dates of the fixed feasts and the date of the beginning of the spring season.

This is the reason why Christmas in the west is celebrated on the 25th of December but in the east it is celebrated on the 7th of January according to the Julian calendar.

It is worth noting that this gap reached up to 13 days until our present day.  Nevertheless, this gap will widen in the future as the difference will increase, I wonder how the West would react then?!!!

We as Copts celebrate Christmas on the 29thKiakh every 3 years during clear years which may be divided by 4 with a remainder of 3.  Then in the following 4th year which may be divided by 4 with no remainder, we celebrate Christmas on the 28th of Kiakh, thus fixing the time between the feast of the annunciation 29thBaramhat, and the birth of Jesus, 29 Kiakh to exactly 9 months.