Orthodox christmas celebrations in the lockdown

After many Roman Catholic and Protestant families were able to celebrate their Christmas with relaxed coronavirus measures, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Christians will be able to celebrate Christmas on 6. and 7. Christmas in the middle of the lockdown. However, there are relaxations in the case of religious services.

On 24. and 25. December, a total of ten people from up to ten different households were allowed to meet in order to have a reasonably normal Christmas, the government said. Since 26. December stricter exit and contact rules apply again. Only meetings between a household (one or more persons) and a single person of another household are allowed.

Part of the Orthodox faithful, in accordance with the Julian calendar, does not celebrate until next Wednesday, 6. January, Christmas Eve and on Thursday Christmas Day. In principle, even in Orthodox churches, all public services are open until 18. January exposed. On 6./7. January, however, there is an exception for those churches that celebrate Christmas on these days. This was agreed in the agreement of the churches with the federal government on 21. December thus recorded. Many services are planned.

More services

In the federal capital Vienna and in several provincial capitals, Serbian and Russian Orthodox Christians in particular, as well as Oriental Orthodox Christians, are expected to attend Christmas liturgies in their parishes.

Greek Orthodox priests in a church in Athens

Orthodox Church does not want to keep Lockdown

The public services take place under the strictest security and hygiene measures. Some services are also broadcast via livestream. Because the number of participants is limited by applicable distance rules, sometimes more services than usual are offered to allow as many faithful as possible to participate.

Four celebrations in St. Nicholas Cathedral

At the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Vienna, about the same four Christmas services will be celebrated, with admission by ticketed entry only. In the three Serbian Orthodox churches in Vienna, there will be Christmas celebrations on 6. and 7. January each three services, with the first Christmas liturgy on Thursday already beginning at 6 a.m.

APA/Herbert Neubauer Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in Vienna

Not only in the Orthodox central churches in Vienna, but also in many other churches and Orthodox parishes throughout Austria that belong to the Patriarchates of Moscow and Belgrade, Christmas is celebrated on 6./7. Christmas celebrated on January. The few believers of the Georgian Orthodox Church who are resident in Austria also celebrate Christmas on this date.

In addition to the (Byzantine) Orthodox Churches, some Ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches represented with believers in Austria also celebrate around the 6./7. January Christmas; so the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. The Armenian Apostolic Church, according to its own tradition, celebrates Christmas on 5./6. January.

Different calendars responsible

Have already celebrated Christmas u.a. The Orthodox Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. It is celebrated in the Orthodox Church, as well as in the Catholic and Protestant Churches, on January 24./25. December.

At the beginning of the 20th century, these Eastern Orthodox churches, with the Greeks at the forefront, introduced a new religious order. Adopted the Gregorian calendar at the beginning of the twentieth century. Since the calendar reform of 1582, the Julian calendar has been 13 days behind the Western Gregorian calendar introduced at that time, which also affects the date of Christmas. The total number of believers in the Orthodox churches in Austria is estimated at about 500.000 estimated. Exact figures have not been available since 2001.

Great consecration of water canceled

In those Orthodox churches that celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar already on 24./25. December, there are currently, as in all other churches, no public church services. This also affects the Orthodox rite of the Great Water Consecration (6. January). The most public celebration takes place every year on the Danube Canal in Vienna and is led by the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis). This year the celebration is omitted.

The traditional rite of the consecration of water is one of the most impressive celebrations of the Orthodox Church and is celebrated to commemorate the baptism of Jesus on the day of the Epiphany in Orthodoxy worldwide. Highlight of the word service carried by psalms, Bible reading and prayer is the threefold immersion of an ornate wooden cross by the metropolitan. The cross is used to bless the Danube Canal and all waters, those present and the whole city of Vienna.

Some Catholics also celebrate on 6./7. January

Not only Orthodox and Ancient Near Eastern Christians celebrate Christmas on 6./7. January Christmas. An important Catholic church with Julian calendar is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

This has its center in Austria with the parish St. Barbara in the Postgasse in the 1. Viennese district. In St. Therefore, St. Barbara also exists on 6./7. January public Christmas services.

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