In central and eastern Europe, as well as many other places around the world, today is Christmas Day. Orthodox Christians everywhere observe this day, January 7th, without the usual trappings of gift giving or the commercialized Christmas. In fact, Orthodox Christmas Day is usually a serious affair squarely centered on the birth of Jesus Christ and what that means.
Why the different day?
That dates back half a millennium when the Julian calendar was swapped for the Gregorian calendar. 11 days were dropped. Many people, especially in rural areas, did not accept the loss of these 11 days and preferred to use the Julian calendar.
Many Orthodox churches recognize the holiday dates according to the Julian calendar. Christmas is still on December 25 in the Julian calendar so the January 7 date is only valid between 1901 and 2100 The Gregorian date for Orthodox Christmas will be January 8 in 2101 if the Julian calendar is still used.
Regardless of the differences in date there are big differences in observance to note as well. It is very religious. There are community processions, midnight masses and constant references to all aspects of the Nativity story.
Orthodox Christmas Day is also a family celebration marked by food and recreational activities — as big a holiday as a holiday can get. Each culture brings a little something different to the table. Community and church leaders figure prominently in these events.