When Is the Orthodox New Year and Is It Different Every Year?

Orthodox New Year, also known as the Old New Year, marks the start of the new year according to the Julian calendar.

The holiday is referred to as "old" or "Orthodox" as it hails back to a time when Russian and Eastern European governments used the Julian calendar, which is still used by some jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church, explains Western Kentucky University (WKU).

When Is Orthodox New Year?

Orthodox New Year falls on January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, which is now in general use across much of the world including in the U.S.

The current difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars is 13 days. But the difference will be extended to 14 days in 2100.

How Is Orthodox New Year Celebrated?

WKU explains: "Many Orthodox Christians who observe the New Year's Day date from the Julian calendar may spend the day reflecting on the previous year and think about meaningful resolutions for the New Year."

According to Russia Beyond, a project operated by TV-Novosti (a "autonomous nonprofit organization" founded by Russia's state-owned news agency RT), Orthodox New Year is more of an informal occasion and isn't an elaborate affair in the style of festive New Year's Eve celebrations, according to the Gregorian calendar.

But it just marks another excuse to pop open some champagne and say a final goodbye to a year gone by and cheers to a new one ahead.

Russians usually begin to take down their New Year tree and put decorations and toys back into storage after Orthodox New Year (so January 14 on the Gregorian calendar), according to Russia Beyond.

Brief History of the Julian Calendar

The Julian calendar was a dating system introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE as a reform of the Roman republican calendar.

By the 40s BCE, the Roman civic calendar was three months ahead of the solar calendar and Caesar introduced the Egyptian solar calendar, with the length of the solar year being 365.25 days.

In a bid to align the civic and solar calendars, Caesar added days to 46 BCE, so it had 445 days.

The Julian calendar was used globally for more than 16 centuries but the discrepancy between the calendar dates and the actual time of the spring equinox of the Northern Hemisphere accumulated.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the Julian calendar, restoring the calendar to the seasonal dates of 325 CE, which marked an adjustment of 10 days, and became widely used in place of the Julian calendar since.

Russian Orthodox believers attending a Christmas service.
Russian Orthodox believers attending a Christmas service at a cathedral in Moscow on January 6, 2022. Orthodox New Year marks the start of the Julian calendar, taking place on January 14 on the Gregorian calendar. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images