By Mohammed Asad
Orthodox Christians from around the world celebrated Christmas today, Jan. 7, 2015. The Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the basis of the old Julian Calendar and often comes within a week or two of the traditional Christmas on Dec. 25 of each year.
Orthodox Christians are mainly from Middle East and Mediterranean countries including in Palestine where Christianity was founded more than 2,000 years ago. Christians who fled Roman and Jewish persecution following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ fled to Syria and Turkey, creating a Christian settlement enclave in Antioch on what is today the Syrian-Turkish border.
Antiochian Orthodox Christians, sometimes referred to as Eastern Orthodox Christians, are similar in religious faith to mainstream Christians, such as the Catholic Christians. They explain on their website, www.Antiochian.org:
“The Church of Antioch was established by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in 42 A.D., with St. Peter serving for the next eight years as its first prelate. The Church of Antioch is one of the five ancient Patriarchates of the Christian Church, along with Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Rome. We are in full communion with our brothers and sisters in various other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America. Together we work to nurture the Orthodox Christians of this land—whether immigrants or native-born, cradle Orthodox, or converts—and to bring America to the ancient Orthodox Christian Faith.”
The largest concentration of Orthodox Christians is in Egypt, where Orthodox Christians are referred to as Coptic Orthodox Christians.
Palestine is the heart of Christianity, however, as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth in the Galilee.
Although the Palestinian Christian population has decreased significantly under the oppressive violence and occupation of the political government of Israel, Christians continue to survive in Palestine, including in the Gaza Strip which is often described as being Muslim. In fact, Christians and Muslims survive together and share in the suffering and the oppress by Israel.
Orthodox Christmas celebrations were also held at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and in Churches throughout occupied Palestine, including in Nazareth and in Haifa.
For a live video view of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and Nativity Square, click here. For a history of Bethlehem, click here.
Here are some photographs of Christian Palestinians celebrating Orthodox Christmas in the Gaza Strip at the St. Rferrios Church.Santa Claus upset he came to the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City after the war, did not find the children, to give them gifts. Copyright (C) 2015 Mohammed Asad. All Rights reserved. Photos may be reproduced with proper credit to Mohammed Asad and the Arab Daily News
(Mohammed Asad is a war correspondent based in the Gaza Strip. This story includes commentary written by Ray Hanania.)
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