Coptic Christmas Day

Although Christmas is celebrated in the West on December 25th, Coptic Christmas is a holiday celebrated on January 7th. This day is for Orthodox Copts and other Orthodox Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ according to the Julian calendar.

This holiday isn’t just observed on a different day than the holiday in the West; it also has a unique set of traditions that set it apart. This holiday is observed by Coptic Christians and Copts in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The History of Coptic Christmas

The reason Coptic Christmas falls on January 7th while Christmas Day falls on December 25th is because of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar back in 1582. Pope Gregory XIII ruled that the Catholic Church should follow the Gregorian calendar because the Julian calendar wasn’t in alignment with the solar calendar, and the Gregorian calendar followed the solar calendar more closely.

Those churches not aligned with the Papacy decided to ignore the change and adhere to the original Julian calendar celebration of the holiday.

Coptic Christmas Customs & Celebrations

The month before Christmas is known as Kiahk, and it’s the fourth month in the Coptic calendar. During this month, religious hymns are sung, and people will take part in Tasbeha, or Midnight Praises. They will also take part in the Divine Liturgy.

Approximately 43 days before Coptic Christmas, devout Copts will abstain from eating animal products. This occurs from November 25th through January 6th. This is known as the Holy Nativity Fast, and it’s a way for participants to show self-control and devotion to God.

Just like with other Christmas celebrations held around the world, people observing this holiday will decorate their homes with Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations. Many churches during this time are lit with additional lamps and candles as well.

In Egypt, Fattah is served. This is a traditional Egyptian dish cooked with crispy bread, meat, rice, and a tomato sauce that’s well-seasoned with garlic. Another dish eaten during this holiday is Fata, an Egyptian meat soup made with garlic, rice, bread, and usually lamb meat.

Sweet biscuits known as Kahk are also enjoyed and given away to people as gifts. In the Middle East, Santa Claus is known as Baba Noël, and children wait patiently for him to climb through their window and leave them presents.

On Coptic Christmas, people will visit each other’s homes and exchange gifts. People also distribute food to the needy, enjoy a variety of sweet treats, and spend the day reflecting on their spirituality. It’s a day on which participants can refocus their attention back on Christ.

People wanting to spread the word about this holiday can do so by using the hashtag #CopticChristmas on their social media accounts. The hashtag #EidMiladMajid can also be used. Eid Milad Majid means “Glorious Birth Feast” in Arabic.

Where is it celebrated?
Egypt (National holiday)Sudan (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
January 7 Sunday
Next year (2025)
January 7 Tuesday
Last year (2023)
January 7 Saturday