(JNS.org) The heads of several ancient Eastern Orthodox Churches arrived in Bethlehem on Monday to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.
Patriarchs from the Greek Orthodox, Assyrian, Coptic, and Ethiopian churches arrived separately in various celebrated processions to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Unlike Christians in the West who follow the Gregorian calendar and celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, Eastern Orthodox Christians use the older Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.
The Christmas celebrations come amid tremendous upheaval for many Middle East Christians— especially Christians in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq—who have come under attack from Islamic extremists.
Roughly half of the Christians in Israel belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, which is part of the 16 churches that comprise the Eastern Orthodox Church.