01/06/2011

The Orthodox Christmas, Copts and 'copters

The Orthodox Christian churches, including the Coptic church, mostly celebrate Christmas tomorrow, 7 January 2011. This year will see the need for security measures, subsequent to the Alexandria massacre. We might also see more than usual helicopter flights this weeekend between Geneva and the nearby ski resorts.


The Coptic church is one of the Orthodox Christian churches which mostly celebrate Christmas in early January, because they still follow the original Julian calendar created by Julius Caesar. In this calendar, every fourth year was a leap year, with one extra day in February.

This calendar was not actually correct, because one leap year in four was a slight overestimate: the time difference between vernal equinoxes is actually 11 minutes less than 365.25 days. To correct this, Pope Gregory XIII introduced in 1582 a new calendar, named after him, under which only 1 of every 4 years what are a multiple of 100 are considered a leap year. Thus, 2000 was a leap year, but 2100, 2200 and 2300 will not be leap years.

Because the accumulated error was then about 10 days, countries which wished to change to the Gregorian calendar had to "lose" 10 or more days. Over time, and with various public demonstrations about their loss, this was achieved, with Britain changing in 1752. However, most Orthodox Churches still use either the Julian calendar, or a new revised version of it, to calculate the date of church feasts such as Christmas and Easter. Presently, their designation of Christmas is 7 January.

For many people in the Russian Federation, this latter date is used for Christmas holidays, and it is a national holiday. It has therefore been suggested that some of the well-off citizens from that region could be choosing to start their ski holidays in Europe at this time. Some of these might even be rich enough to want to fly to Geneva and then get to and fom their destination by helicopter.

In view of statistics for non-medical helicopter flights in the the first 5 days of the year (about 20 in 2010, over 70 this year), it will be interesting to note the number of helicopter flights to and from Geneva airport over the next week or two.

 

 

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