What is Coptic Christmas?
Coptic Christmas is celebrated by some Orthodox Christians on the 7th of January every year and is different from the worldwide Christmas celebration held on 25th of December. The date is as per the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is usually considered by most. The day reflects healings and inner thoughts and is observed by Christians across many east European countries. A day before Coptic Christmas, most people observe a fast and celebrate the day with feasting with friends and family members. The food most commonly eaten or served during this day includes nuts and fresh dried fruits, Lenten bread, Mushroom soup, vegetables and herbs like peas, potatoes and garlic, Bobal’ki, slow-cooked kidney beans with garlic, potatoes and seasoning, baked cod, and honey.
The history of Coptic Christmas
Christmas is a day when Lord Jesus Christ was born, who people believe is the son of god. Most think that the actual birth date of Jesus Christ is unknown due to the little information available. In the Bible, the Gospel of St. Matthew says that Christ was born during the Great’s reign. The birth date of Jesus by most people is celebrated on 25th of December, but some as per the traditional info celebrate the same on January 7th, every year.
Coptic Christmas is also known as Old Christmas Day, and eleven days were dropped when in 1952, England and Scotland switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The people who did not accept this shift continued celebrating the same on January 7th. The January 7th date is valid only between 1901 and 2100 and from 2101 Coptic Christmas must be celebrated on the 8th of January, one day later.
The time before Coptic Christmas
The Coptic month is called Kiahk, which is observed for 43 days before Christmas from 25th November till 6th January. All this time Christians eat special food, which is all vegetarian. They stay away from consuming animal products during this time. The special fast is called The Holy Nativity Fast, where excuse for the weak and ill is considered. On the eve of Coptic Christmas people go to church for special service or liturgy. This is the time when people meet up with friends at the church and the services usually get over after midnight, at some places going on till 4 am. After the service, people enjoy a hearty meal that comprises of eggs, meat and butter and everything else which they could not eat during the fast. One popular food is the “Fata’, which is lamb soup containing rice, bread, garlic and boiled lamb meat.
On Christmas day, people often give Kahk or special sweet biscuits as gift to one another.
Coptic Christmas celebrations in Egypt
Even with a small population of Christians, Egypt celebrates Christmas like a secular holiday. The festival has now become very commercial where anyone can buy Christmas decorations, food and trees easily. Many places see special decoration for this festival. Santa in Egypt is called Baba Noel, meaning Father Christmas. Children wait for his arrival with gifts and even leave some Kahk for him. In Egypt, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th and the celebration boasts diversity. The forty days preceding Coptic Christmas are named as Advent season, during which people abstain from eating animal products and dairy food.
The special fast during Advent season shows the devotion and self control of all those who wish to participate in this special celebration. Egyptians attend church on the eve of this day dressed in new clothes. After the service, people gather for the special bread called ‘qurban’, meaning sacrifice. This Egyptian tradition differs from the Christian tradition of serving wine and bread.
Qurban bread has a Holy Cross in the centre with 12 dots representing 12 apostles. After this people have a special meal referred as Fata, made mainly out of rice, bread, boiled meat and garlic. In the morning, people visit friends and relatives, while exchanging Kaik, which is enjoyed with Shorbat, a special drink.
Coptic Christmas in Egypt is a holiday, especially for the Christian people residing here. As per historical legends, the Holy Family moved to Egypt to mark the event and all other traditions during the Nativity. During this time the churches here are decorated with lamps and candles.
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