Embracing Orthodox Christmas: Interfaith Tolerance in Kazakhstan and the U.S.

By Marissa Polascak

Salem, readers! Here in the United States, Christmas is celebrated by many people on December 25th each year. This seems to be the date that a majority of Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, as most businesses are closed that day, and many people go to visit their families for festivities. However, many people do not know that some people celebrate Christmas on January 7th. This is oftentimes referred to as “Orthodox Christmas” and is recognized as Christmas Day by Orthodox Christian churches.

1 Image Source: www.kazakhstandiscovery.com

The difference is this: those who celebrate on December 25th use the Julian calendar, and those who celebrate on January 7th use the Gregorian calendar.  The difference between these two calendars can get a little complicated, and sometimes even beyond my comprehension, so I will not attempt to expound upon the differences in this post. If you’d like, feel free to utilize your favorite search engine in order to gain a better understanding as to why these two calendars are used.

Growing up, I always knew there was more than one Christmas. My family celebrated Christmas on December 25th, and we celebrated what we called “Ukrainian Christmas” on January 7th, since my mother has always emphasized the importance of our heritage. While all my friends attended school on January 7th, my mother would keep me and my brother home and we would have presents under our Christmas tree just like on December 25th.  While we usually celebrated Christmas full-fledged on December 25th, January 7th was always like a second Christmas to me, so it was surprising to find out that most, if not all, of my friends did not think it was a real thing. After all, the conventional Christmas date here is December 25th, so why would I be celebrating weeks later?

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Image Source: En.tengrinews.kz

I think that, because I have been in touch with my heritage since I was a child, it has always been easy for me to understand that people celebrate different holidays for different reasons and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it is interesting to learn about the different holidays people celebrate. So, when I read Tengrinews’ post about Nazarbayev’s address to the people of Kazakhstan in regards to Orthodox Christmas, it made me very happy. This article can be read here: http://en.tengrinews.kz/politics_sub/Nazarbayev-congratulates-Kazakhstan-on-Orthodox-Christmas-258288/

As I have written before, Kazakhstan is known for is tolerance of people of all different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Most people in Kazakhstan practice Islam, but Christianity is the second most practiced religion. These Christians are mostly Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian, and belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Therefore, Christmas in Kazakhstan is widely recognized as January 7th.

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Image Source: En.tengrinews.kz

To further emphasize Kazakhstan’s awesome tolerance of different faiths, cultures, and backgrounds, recently a statement was made by the State Secretary that Kazakhstan aims to popularize the country’s model of interethnic tolerance. State Secretary Gulshara Abdykalikova spoke about the model (sometimes referred to as Nazarbayev’s Model) saying that the country aims to make the model appeal internationally. Hopefully this will highlight the importance of acceptance of all people to other countries.

Well, readers, there you have it. Kazakhworld hopes that all of you lovely people had a great holiday season, and we hope that you have a great new year!

Rakhmet!

 Sources: Wikipedia; En.Tengrinews.kz; Timeanddate.com

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