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Why do actually people in Russia celebrate Christmas 13 days later than in Western Europe ?
Small Calendar History
or where had gone the 13 days ?The 13 days of difference between 25th December and 7th January are exactly of the same discrepancy as the one between 25th October 1917, the renowned date of the October Revolution, and 7th November 1917, the day it had really started according to the western calendar.
In Russia the year 1699 was the year 7207 after the creation of the World, carefully calculated by the Orthodox clergy according to the Bible.
In December 1699 Tsar Peter ( called the First in Russia, the Great in Western Europe ) decided to change over to a modern calendar. By that time basically two calendar variants existed in Europe. In all Catholic countries pope Gregor's calendar was used, in other countries, for example in England, it was the old Julian one.
As Rome, the long-lasting competitor to Byzantium, was strictly disagreeable to the Russian Tsar, he opted for the English variant.
When England and its colonies ( hello USA ! ) also changed over to the Gregorian calendar in September 1752, Russia didn't realize and kept on faithfully to its established calendar system.
In Russia this was caught up after the October Revolution by making follow on 31st January 1918 straight the 14th February 1918, skipping 13 days. The Church though sticks to the old calendar.
How do the Julian and Gregorian calendar differ from each other ?
Until the reform of the calendar by pope Gregor, all years that could be divided by four had been leap years. One year then had 365,25 days on the average. The tropical year though lasts only 365,2422 days. This difference makes up after 128 years one whole day ( 1 / ( 0,25 - 0,2422 ) = 128,2 ).
Not crucial considering the span of life of a human being, but over the centuries Easter would shift gradually towards summer. That had already been clear at the beginning of modern times. Thus at the Council of Constance in 1414 not only Jan Hus was burnt, but it was also concluded that a reform of the calendar was necessary. And it was already in 1545, during the Council of Trient, that the resolution was confirmed !
With the bull of 24th February 1582 ( date according to the old calendar ) pope Gregor ordered that in that year 4th October was to be followed straight by 15th October. By these means the shift that had already taken place got re-adjusted. Furthermore the full centuries should no longer be any leap years, as long as the year isn't divisible as well by 400. 1900 and 2100 are therefore no leap years, 2000 though had been one. On 400 years result 97 leap days. The Gregorian calendar year hence lasts on the average 365 + ( 97 / 400 ) = 365,2425 days and is quite close to the tropical year.
In Italy, Spain, Portugal and France the pontifical bull was already followed in 1582. Most of the other Catholic countries joined until 1584, i.e. not the Protestant and even less the Orthodox ones.