With Violence Against Christians in the Middle East Should Coptic Christians Celebrate Christmas on Dec 25?

The move towards Christian unity is only getting stronger.

For Coptic Christians, Christmas falls on January 7 and not December 25. This is as they follow the Julian calendar. This may soon change as many in the community want the dates to be the same for the sake of global Christian unity.

The concept of Christian unity is alluring to Coptic Christians as Christians are now almost absent in the geographical area where the religion of Christianity came into existence. Lebanon is the only state where Christians have a sizable presence. The country also has a large Muslim population in addition to other minor religious offshoots. Another place where Christians made their mark felt is in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq. The Christians who fled the violence are now slowly trickling back. Coptic Christians were subjected to horrific violence by Islamists when the Coptic Church in Egypt was bombed in 2018. Last year 128 Coptic Christians were killed due to their faith. Other than bombing churches, terrorists have also targeted pilgrims and singled out Christian homes to be vandalized.

The violence has changed the outward show of Coptic Christianity. For the first time in many years, the Christmas tree has made its appearance. Inter-village clashes where Muslims of one village fought with Christians of another village have accelerated the process of Coptic Christians pushing themselves towards mainstream Christianity. One particularly horrific but old clash which took place in the village of El Kosheh left 21 killed. A few residents were crucified.

It was agreed by Church historians that Saint Nicholas was born in the Asia Minor region in 280 A.D. If the legend is to be believed, Nicholas was forced to spend time in Egypt as a storm damaged his now Israel bound boat, and the latter went off-course, finally ending in Alexandria. The latter continues to be the official seat of all Coptic popes. Since Nicholas’ tale is widely known, his near-miraculous rescue made him the patron saint of all sailors. Local Christians got a whiff of modern Christianity only when Egypt was conquered by the British during the latter part of the 19th century.

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