Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in Europe and beyond

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Different traditions characterize Christmas Day, which for the Orthodox faith falls on January 7th.

ANNOUNCEMENT

Orthodox Christians in Europe and around the world packed churches Saturday night for Christmas Eve services.

Traditions vary, but generally the main worship for Orthodox Christians takes place the night before Christmas Day, which falls on January 7.

The date is taken from the Julian calendar proposed by Roman dictator Julius Caesar and is observed by many Orthodox Christians.

In Bethlehem, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem presided over midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity.

In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill – or Cyril – of the Russian Orthodox Church presided over the Divine Liturgy service in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

In his Christmas message, Kirill spoke about sacrificial love, emphasizing that Jesus Christ “saved us from the wrong path in life, from the wrong orientation of life.”

He also called for prayers for Russia, so that “no extraneous evil will can interrupt the peaceful flow of life.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin was joined by the families of soldiers who died in the war in Ukraine during Christmas Eve services at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, on the western outskirts of Moscow.

In Belgrade, Serbian believers celebrated Orthodox Christmas Eve by burning oak branches during sermons held outside churches and temples.

Many residents of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, celebrated the feast of the Epiphany on the eve of Orthodox Christmas by diving into the cold Dnipro River.

Thousands of faithful dived into the winter waters of rivers and lakes across Bulgaria to recover crucifixes thrown by priests during Epiphany ceremonies.

Legend has it that the person who retrieves the wooden cross from the river will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy all year round.

Epiphany marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas, but not all Orthodox Christian churches celebrate it on the same day.

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