I did it! I had finally chosen the perfect gift. On January 7th, with pajamas on and a Santa hat donned, I met my friend and gave her a present with a sparkling red bow on top. The traditional shaking of the package was followed by a ripping off of the wrapping paper. From the kitchen wafted in the smell of pecenica (pork sausage), meat sarma, baked ham, roast potatoes, and decadent apple strudel. This warm and welcoming scene occurs in Serbian households all over for Christmas on January 7th. This year, I was lucky enough to celebrate the holiday with a friend. And gain a few extra weeks of gift hunting!
Why January 7th?
The current calendar is referred to as the Gregorian Calendar. This was created by Catholic Pope Gregory in 1582 and was a revision to the previous Julian Calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC. In 1582, Pope Gregory realized that the previous measurements were inaccurate and as such had to be updated. Four main issues were identified: 1) the year did not align with the seasons, 2) the leap year dislocated the calendar, 3) there was not a uniform beginning to the year , and 4) the Easter holiday did not have a set date. (Achelis).
To mitigate these issues, Pope Gregory and his team of scientists worked to produce a new calendar. First, the issue of misaligned seasons was fixed by dropping ten days from the year and setting March 21st as the equinoctial date, or the day when the sun is directly over the equator. Then the leap year was modified, and January 1st was declared the first day of the year. Finally, while Easter’s annually changing date was originally seen as an issue, Pope Gregory decided to keep the wandering Easter as it was tied to the moon. According to Achelis, “The wandering character of Easter is due to the fact that it is tied to a lunar reckoning; theoretically Easter comes on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.” Moving Easter to an official fixed date would have caused the holiday to lose significance.
While the Gregorian calendar is used around the world, many Orthodox Christians still celebrate holidays on the Julian Calendar. Orthodox Christian Serbians, for example, celebrate Christmas on January 7th, 14 days after most Western cultures celebrate the merry holiday.
So mark January 7th on your calendar, keep up the tree and lights, and feast on sweet apple strudel; it is a holiday of course!
срећан Божић (srećan Božić or Merry Christmas!)
Achelis, Elizabeth, June 1954. “Gregory’s Contribution” http://myweb.ecu.edu/mccartyr/gregory.html