Orthodox Christians all over Russia have been marking Christmas with processions and midnight services.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill held Mass at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in a service attended by Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev.
He began the celebrations by carrying a reliquary flown in from Greece earlier in the day said to contain gold, frankincense and myrrh presented by the three wise men to the baby Jesus.
President Vladimir Putin marked the occasion in Sochi at the new cathedral of the Image of Christ the Saviour – built especially in time for the Winter Olympics.
Chilly temperatures did little to diminish the air of defiance among Ukraine’s anti-government demonstrators who celebrated Orthodox Christmas Eve at the central Kiev square they have occupied since last autumn.
In Bethlehem, meanwhile, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III celebrated at the Church of the Nativity. The Patriarch was greeted by marching bands in Manger Square.
Christian tradition has the Nativity Church as the birthplace of Jesus and Christmas is celebrated by most denominations at the Bethlehem church.