For the Eastern Orthodox, both Christmas and Epiphany are among the Twelve Great Feasts that are only second to Easter in importance.
The period between Christmas and Epiphany is fast-free. During this period one celebration leads into another. 25-28 December. The Nativity of Christ is a three-day celebration and celebrates not only the Nativity of Jesus, but also the Adoration of the Shepherds of Bethlehem and the arrival of the Magi; the second day is referred to as the "Synaxis of the Theotokos", and commemorates the role of the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation; the third day is known as the "Third Day of the Nativity", and is also the feast day of the Protodeacon and Protomartyr Saint Stephen.
29 December is the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Innocents.
The Afterfeast of the Nativity continues until 31 December (that day is known as the Apodosis or "leave-taking" of the Nativity).
The Saturday following the Nativity is commemorated by special readings from the Epistle (1 Tim 6:11-16) and Gospel (Matt 12:15-21) during the Divine Liturgy. The Sunday after the Nativity has its own liturgical commemoration in honour of "The Righteous Ones: Joseph the Betrothed and David the King".
Another of the more prominent festivals that are included among the Twelve Great Feasts is that of the Circumcision of Christ on 1 January. On this same day is the feast day of Saint Basil the Great, and so the service celebrated on that day is the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil.
2 January begins the Forefeast of the Theophany.
The Eve of the Theophany on 5 January is a day of strict fasting, on which the devout will not eat anything until the first star is seen at night. This day is known as Paramony ("preparation"), and follows the same general outline as Christmas Eve. That morning is the celebration of the Royal Hours and then the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil combined with Vespers, at the conclusion of which is celebrated the Great Blessing of Waters, in commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. There are certain parallels between the hymns chanted on Paramony and those of Good Friday, to show that, according to Orthodox theology, the steps that Jesus took into the Jordan River were the first steps on the way to the Cross.
Ακούστε την Άννα Συνοδινού να διαβάζει το Βλογημένο Μαντρί του Φώτη Κόντογλου.
Christmas arts and crafts: