The UK island of Foula, located in Scotland, will celebrate the birth of Jesus tomorrow – two weeks after the rest of the Catholic world. This small remote island, with a population of only 30 people still follows the ancient Julian calendar, so they will – unlike the whole world – celebrate the New Year’s Day on January 13!
“Islanders have celebrated these days before the Gregorian Calendar. It is not just part of our tradition – but the world’s. It is everybody else who changed – not us” said crofter Stuart Taylor, an inhabitant of the island. “We are not unique – other parts of the world, such as areas of Russia, still celebrate the old calendar.”
He said the inhabitants of the island always celebrate their holidays together. “On the 6th, families open their presents in their own homes and then in the evening we all tend to end up in one house… It is the same at New Year on the 13th – we will visit each other’s houses and end up at one.
This tradition is not going to end here. The children have been brought up to expect their main presents on the 6th.”
The people of Foula care about their tradition: their folklore, festivities, and music. They also preserved their own Norn language, which is considered to be officially dead since 1800. The remoteness of the island makes it hard to approach and the bad weather makes it even more inaccessible to possible visitors. Tom Macintyre, the previous minister of the Church of Scotland had the intention to visit the islander for one Christmas service, but he gave up on his attempt because of the terrible weather.
“We have had some scary weather lately with the storms. Some car windows were smashed by stones picked up by the winds” explains Stuart Taylor, but he doesn’t complain. “But it is winter and we had a really good summer.”
Gregorian calendar was introduced in October 1592, by Pope Gregory XIII. The same year, Scotland adopted the calendar, along with the rest of the UK – except for the Scottish island of Foula. Some Orthodox Churches still didn’t adopt the Gregorian calendar, such as The Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Serbia, Russia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Georgia, Ukraine, Poland and Greece, so they are still celebrating the holidays according to old calendar: Christmas on January 7th, and start of a new year on January 14th.