Last Sunday, after weeks of living in pajamas while confined to our homes in coronavirus quarantine, my family attended the Palm Sunday services at the Amman Baptist Church in Jordan.
We woke up early, showered, shaved, fixed our hair, put on our Sunday best, and then traveled the long distance from the bedroom to the living room to watch the livestreamed songs and sermon celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The timetable above is not an error. While evangelicals around the world joined Catholics in commemorating Easter on April 12, in Jordan our Passion week was only just beginning.
The reason for this anomaly stems from a decision made 45 years earlier by the Middle Eastern nation’s officially recognized Christian denominations.
Christmas, they agreed, would be celebrated jointly on December 25 according to the Western Gregorian calendar. And in exchange, all Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants would mark Palm Sunday and Easter according to the Eastern Julian calendar.
In the West, many Orthodox communities already observe Christmas in line with the local culture. In the Middle East, the bigger problem is Easter.
The vast majority of Egypt’s 10 million Christians celebrate both Christmas and Easter according to the Coptic Orthodox calendar.
The majority of Lebanon’s Christians—one-third of the population—are Maronite Catholic, who determine the religion of the president and the cultural celebration of Christmas and Easter. The government also observes the religious calendar of its sizable Orthodox community.
But in Jordan and Palestine, where the percentage of Christians in the popluation is dwindling to single digits, the duplication of holidays became a social problem—for ...1
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