The Greek Orthodox Calendar

The Church of Greece (Ekklesía tęs Helládos), or the "Greek Orthodox Church", is one of the most important autocephalous churches of the Eastern Orthodox communion, and recognized as ecclesiastically independent by the Patriarchate in 1850. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Eastern Orthodox Church used the Julian calendar and didn't accept the calendar reforms of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent.

The Julian calendar, designed by the astronomer Sosigenes, was introduced in 46 BC, by the emperor Julius Caesar. According to it, the year has 365 days divided into 12 months, and a leap year is added to February every four years. It has been used until the beginning of the 20th century, being generally replaced by the Gregorian calendar. Still, the Orthodox Churches, even though they don't use the old Julian calendar, are using a revised one.

At least 95 percent of all Greeks claim membership in the Greek Orthodox church, part of the Eastern Orthodox church. Until 1054, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were one body. Theological, political, and cultural differences split the church in two, and those differences were never completely reconciled.

Greek Orthodox Calendar

In 1924 the Holy Synod in Greece replaced the Old Style Julian Calendar with a modified New Style calendar. The proposal was made by the Orthodox churches in May 1923, at a synod in Istanbul. In fact it is a synchronization of the new calendar with the Gregorian one. It says that the next 1 October of the Julian calendar becomes 14 October in the new Julian calendar, dropping thirteen days. You can say that it is a modified form of the Gregorian calendar that kept the traditional Julian calendar Paschalion to calculate the date of Pascha.

Then it has the leap year rule, thus differing from the Gregorian calendar. It means that years divisible by four are leap years. The two calendars will first differ in 2800, this year being a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, but o common year in the New Julian calendar. The leap year rule was proposed by Milutin Milankovic, who was an astronomer delegated to the synod, and represented the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes of that time. The Revised Julian calendar was adopted by the Orthodox churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Greece, Romania, Poland, Antioch and Bulgaria. There were churches who decided to reject the idea, like the churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Georgia and the Greek Old Calendarists rejected this idea. This change generated many controversies determining a schism inside the Orthodox Church of Greece. There are some factions that still follow the old Julian calendar. They are called Old Style Calendarists (palaioimerologites) though they kept up the rites and the beliefs of the Church of Greece. They pretend to be the protectors of the Orthodox doctrine, against heretical innovations.

The synod adopted the astronomical rule for Easter, too, when it decided to adopt the revised calendar. Easter day would be the Sunday after the midnight-to-midnight day at the meridian of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher from Jerusalem.

But the fact is that, in the countries belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church, it's the church who continues to use the Julian calendar. For example, in Communist Russia, in 1918, the Gregorian calendar was introduced by a decree of the Council of People's Commissars. It is the calendar used for civil and governmental affairs. Only the church uses the Julian calendar for religious purposes, Easter and other religious festivals.

Greek Calendar

The Gregorian calendar is the most commonly used, all over the world. It was introduced in 1582, by Pope Gregory XIII, through the papal bull "inter gravissimas", which explains its name. According to this calendar, the days are numbered as beginning with the traditional birth year of Jesus Christ, which is known as "Anno Domini" (AD) and marked the beginning of our era or the "common era", or the "Christian era" (CE).

Major Feastdays/Greek Orthodox Holidays

  • Nativity of the Theotokos..............................September
  • Exaltation of the Holy Cross...........................September
  • Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple.....November
  • Christmas (Nativity of Jesus Christ).................December
  • Epiphany (Baptism of Christ)..........................January
  • Presentation of Christ in the Temple................February
  • Annunciation (Evangelismos)..........................March
  • EASTER (Pascha)........................................(Varies from year to year)
  • Ascension..................................................(40 Days after Easter)
  • Pentecost..................................................(50 Days after Easter)
  • Transfiguration of Christ................................August
  • Dormition of the Theotokos (Kimissis)...............August

Greek Festivals

The Greek Festival of Epiphany, or 'The Blessing of the Waters', is held every year on January 6 throughout all of Greece. This is the special occasion when many daring young Greek men brave the chilly waters to dive for a cross after it has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. For his gallantry, the first man who recovers the cross is said to have good luck throughout the coming year. The day long festival also features the blessing of small boats and ships, and later on affords entertainment, music, dancing and food to all those present.

Greek New Year

January 1st is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but it is also St. Basil's Day. St Basil was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him.

New Year is perhaps even more festive and important than Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of St Basil's kindness to children and the stories of how he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes.

Greek Holidays

Although there are a few national holidays in Greece where the whole country takes a break, you should know that each island, village and city has their own holidays as well. They usually have to do with the patron saint.

The holidays are not always on the same date every year:
  • New Year's Day
  • Epiphany
  • Ash Monday/Clean Monday
  • National Holiday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter
  • Easter Monday
  • Labour Day
  • White Monday
  • Assumption
  • National Holiday
  • Christmas
  • Boxing Day
The International Planner contains all the holidays for all countries and major religions worldwide. In addition to the religious days for the Greek Orthodox calendar, it also contains the Greek holidays that are observed in the country of Greece.