Christmas in January

Girls in the Eastern European nation of Ukraine, singing Christmas carols on their Christmas Day

I’ll bet you thought Santa had put away his reindeer and headed down to Miami for a vacation.

Wrong.

After all, his work isn’t finished yet.

The reason?

For a lot of Christians, Christmas doesn’t come until January.

They’re Orthodox Christmas.

And they celebrate the holiday on January 7th, not December 25th.

The reason?

They’re on a different calendar.

Unlike the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar.

(Roman Catholic and Protestant churches use the Gregorian calendar.)

And according to the Julian calendar, Jesus’ birthday falls on January 7th on our modern day-to-day calendar.

Orthodox Christians live in many Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries, including Greece, Russia and Egypt.

Ethiopian Christians are also an Orthodox denomination.

Like other Christians, Orthodox Christians believe in Saint Nicholas.

In fact, Saint Nicholas is considered the patron saint of Russia.

(A patron saint is a saint who’s considered a special defender of a particular group or nation.)

But they celebrate the holiday a little differently.

Some Orthodox Christians fast on their Christmas Eve (January 6th).

That means they don’t eat anything all day.

Others will only eat food that has no animal products in it — foods such as beet borscht (soup), mushroom soup, nuts and dried fruits.

Then on Christmas Day, they have a big feast with lots of meat and other good food.

One of the favorite foods around Christmas time for many Orthodox Christians is the pierogi.

(In Ukrainian, it’s also known as a varenyky.)

Pierogis are dumplings that can be stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese.

They’re usually boiled and then sautéed in butter.

In Greece, Orthodox Christians eat a special loaf of bread known as Christopsomo.

That means “Christ’s bread.”

It’s made with fruits, nuts, olive oil, sugar and lots of spices.

The day before Orthodox Christmas, Greeks also have a tradition called “The Blessing of the Waters.”

It’s customary for young men to dive into a body of water to retrieve a wooden cross — a cross a priest throws in after blessing it.

The first man to retrieve the cross is supposed to have good luck throughout the coming year.

So if you feel like celebrating Christmas twice, you can do it again – in January.

There might still be time to get in good with Santa.