The Nativity of the Lord, the “Winter Pascha”

Observances surrounding Christmas Over the centuries, the Byzantine Celebrations of Christmas have gradually been conforming more and more to the Paschal sequence of Great Lent through Ascension. Many now refer to the whole period as “The Winter Pascha” (Alexander Schmemann), with two parts: The Christmas Fast (first 40 days) and the Season of the Epiphanies (second 40 days). It is a fascinating example of on-going Liturgical evolution.

Historically, the celebration of God’s self-revelation in Christ was one “kernel-feast” of manifestation, light and water, 6 January , The Theophany (in Egypt and the East) or 25 December (in Rome and the West). 25 December corresponded to the Winter Solstice, the Saturnalia and the Feasts of Mithras. In most Churches / locales it was on one of these days that all of the following events were celebrated: Nativity, Magi, Circumcision, Baptism, Encounter (Presentation) in the Temple.