Russia celebrates Christmas
Today Orthodox Christians are celebrating Christmas, one of the biggest and most ancient Christian holidays. The main solemn service was held in the Christ the Savior Cathedral by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia on the night from the 6th of January to the 7th. The service was attended by thousands of believers, including the Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and his wife, members of the Russian parliament and other government officials.
In addition, services were held in 389 current Orthodox monasteries, temples and churches of the city, in total, they were visited by more than 300 thousand people.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia congratulated Orthodox Christians after the service, recalling that the essence of the holiday is not "external traditions", but the birth of God.
"Jesus Christ has completely changed the world, he has linked man with God through his embodiment, opening the opportunity for people to escape from the sinful whirl and see the prospect of eternal life," the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said.
The Patriarch called on all believers to be worthy of this bright holiday and wished them to "not obscure the light of the star of Bethlehem from other people."
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an Orthodox Christmas service at the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary Church in the village of Turginovo, in Russia’s central Tver Region, where his parents were baptized. The Russian leader wished happiness, peace and success to all Orthodox Christians, to all citizens of Russia who celebrate Christmas.
"This festival gives us a joyous mood, evokes the brightest feelings and thoughts. It unites us around the ideals of good, love and mercy. These enduring values play a special role in the history of Russia, being the spiritual and moral support of society for centuries," he said.
The President noted that today the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations of Russia continue helping people to find faith and strengthen them on the path of life. Putin also recalled the importance of the Russian Christian denominations for the education of children and youth, strengthening the institutions of the family, motherhood and childhood, as well as harmonization of interethnic and interreligious relations.
Solemn services were held not only in Russia but also abroad: Russian servicemen in Syria were able to celebrate Christmas in the field church at the Hmeymim airbase near Latakia.
The head of the Republic of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, also congratulated Christians, the press service of the Dagestani government said.
"This holiday symbolizes the triumph of mercy, goodness, justice and peace, having a salutary effect on the deeds and thoughts of people who aspire to live in peace and harmony. The role of the Orthodox denominations in a statement of high moral principles in the life of society, good relations between the representatives of traditional faiths, decent upbringing of the younger generation and preserving our rich cultural and historical heritage is truly unique. It is large and extremely important work in terms of our multi-ethnic and multi-confessional society, which is worthy of the most sincere confession," RIA Dagestan cited him as saying.
January 7 is also Christmas Day for Orthodox Christians in Serbia, Jerusalem, Georgia, the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece, Eastern Catholic Churches and some Protestants who hold the Julian calendar.
The holiday was banned in Russia after the revolution of 1917. Christmas became an official holiday in 1991: on December 27, 1990, in response to an appeal by Patriarch Alexy II, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR declared Christmas a holiday. The resolution came into effect on January 14, 1991.