When I grew up in New Jersey we had a fairly diverse population that included many followers of Orthodox Christianity (mostly Eastern Europeans and Greeks). So I always remember Little Christmas being celebrated on January 6, and many people also treated that as the day the Christmas season was over, and their decorations came down. I was told it had something to do with the difference between the Gregorian calendar, used by Western Christians, and the Julian calendar, used by Orthodox Christians. With Jan. 6, 2021 approaching, I was curious if that was right and did some research on it. It turns out to be only part of the story.
January 6 is officially the Feast of the Epiphany in Western Christianity which celebrates the visit of the three wise men to Bethlehem. It also is the end of the twelve days of Christmas. In some traditions it is also known as Little Christmas.
Another reason for celebrating this day as Christmas is the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. By the time of Pope Gregory it was known that the Julian Calendar was drifting away from the actual motion of the earth around the sun. Gregory introduced a subtle correction to fix this. But since he was the head of the Western Christian church and there had been a split between that church and the Eastern (Orthodox) church, the latter did not adopt the new calendar but stuck with the old one. How this makes December 25th for the Western Church correspond to Jan 6th for the Orthodox church is explained here.
In Ireland Little Christmas is also called Women’s Christmas or Women’s Little Christmas. I don’t know where the tradition came from, but on this day Women are supposed to feast and rest while the men do all the work. Sounds like a great idea, I can see why that would be popular -at least among half the population 🙂
Just a token mention of exercising to make this post more relevant to a blog that’s supposed to be about healthy aging: I exercised pretty hard and for several hours on Tuesday (Jan 5th). So today I’m enjoying Little Christmas by doing a short recovery walk and bike ride.