Every year, we bask in the blessings of the Nativity of Christ, a feast celebrated on 25 December by western Churches, and on 7 January by eastern Churches including the Coptic Orthodox Church. Year in year out, the issue of the calendar difference between the various Churches, and their inability to agree on one date on which to celebrate Christmas, inevitably comes up. Those keen on a unified date to mark the Feast of the Nativity have divergent views; the priority for some is that a single date be set for all in the world to celebrate the blessed occasion together; others insist that the date marked by their own Church is the correct one and should thus be adopted by other Churches. The bottom line remains that the Nativity of Christ is celebrated around the world on two different dates.
Regardless of the incentive behind the desire to unify the date of Christmas, we must ensure that it does not compromise the affection we hold for one another as members of different Churches, nor our respect for the various historical legacies that have culminated in different dates for Christmas. We must relinquish the idea of attempting to determine which date is the “correct” one; rather, we should learn to perceive the difference as a sign of wealthy diversity that should be embraced with tolerance, gentleness and peace, remembering that these qualities represent the essence of Christmas, the Incarnation of the Word.
Watani has been keen to shed light on the historic dimensions behind the calendar differences between eastern and western Churches in celebrating the Nativity of Christ. These differences concern variations in astronomic, solar and stellar references and calculations, and how scientists along the centuries have observed, monitored, and revaluated them, leading to decisions to rectify the calendar and, accordingly, shifting the date of the Feast of the Nativity.
I will not go into details of what Watani has been publishing in this regard, in order to whet readers’ appetite to explore the issue. However, I will list the articles printed in Watani’s previous and current issues on the topic.
On 26 December 2021, Watani printed a review of “Calendars in the East and West … the difference in the timing of the Feast of the Nativity”, also a reprint of an opinion piece by Tawfiq Haddad originally published on 6 August 1966 and titled “Refining the Coptic calendar does not tamper with faith, fasts or feasts”.
This Sunday, 9 January 2022, Watani prints coverage of the historic references behind the evolution of celebrating Christmas around the world. The coverage carries the title “The Nativity of Christ … uninterrupted celebrations from 25 December until 7 January”. The Opinion Page includes a reprint of a 13 August 1967 article by Labib Yacoub Salib titled “View of the Coptic Orthodox stellar calendar”.
I hope our readers would find in these articles a rich dose of information on the issue of the calendar differences that determine Christian feasts. And I hope that, as readers take a stroll through the articles, they would do so in a spirit of affection, respect and tolerance as a means and aim to finally reach agreement.
7 January 2022