Yesterday, January 6, was Armenian Christmas. Today, January 7, is Coptic Christmas. Did I get that right?
These two churches, mysteriously called Oriential (sic) Orthodox, in contrast to the Eastern Orthodox, share Communion with each other, but not the date of Christmas in the United States. The Armenian Church is the last Apostolic Church to adopt the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord; they are only the last because they have not adopted the feast at all. They observe Christ's birth along with the Baptism in the Jordan and the Wedding Feast at Cana on January 6, the Theophany feast. My own Byzantine parish celebrated that same feast, Theophany, today with an extraordinarily detailed blessing of Jordan Water in a service that resembles the structure of the Divine Liturgy, complete with readings, an Alleluia, a Gospel, a Litany, and a dismissal.
The Coptic Church, especially here, in America, continues to adhere to their own kalendar, which aligns with the Julian system still favored by many Calcedonian Orthodox, which makes today something approximating December 25 on another schema. They will observe the feast of Epiphany on January 19, thirteen days after their Armenian brethren.
Despite what some commentators believe, especially those who wish to impose a universal date for the Resurrection for all Catholics (East and Latin) and Orthodox, either according to the Gregorian kalendar or the Julian one, the disparate celebration of feasts is not an inherent occasion for disunity with the broader Church. If anything, the local observance should be favored over the universal norm, should they differ, if only because of the lesson of today's (or yesterday, or the 19), that Christ came to sanctify and save the world, not to confuse it. It would be better, in this writer's humble opinion, to uplift and Christianize the rhythms of our society than to create a parallel world in which they do not exist. Were the pope to announce we would henceforth celebrate Christmas on January 7, the greeting card issuers and toy retailers would smile in having two extra weeks of sales; they would not hang on to the current date.
The ones who have it hardest are those caught between cultures, immigrants more often than not. Our parish will repeat the Divine Liturgy for Christmas on January 7, entirely in Ukrainian, a service more often than not attended by those who adhere to the traditions of the Old World as they live in the New.
Now, will the Armenian Church in New York, St. Vartan's, have mitred deacons today for St. Stephen?