They came in their thousands and queued for hours in freezing temperatures outside the Kazan Cathedral of the Novodevichy Convent in St. Petersburg.
Their journey could not have been as hazardous as that of the three men they had come to honour, though the crowd did have to pass through modern security measures including metal detectors.
Inside the cathedral was the casket reputedly containing gold frankincense and myrrh – the gifts of adoration brought by the three wise men for the baby Jesus.
It is an event celebrated each year in the Christian calendar and central to the story of the birth of Christ.
Each orthodox believer moved forward to kiss the casket which is on loan from the Greek Orthodox Church in Athens. It is the first time it has been shown in Russia and there had been great anticipation ahead of its arrival.
As one mother who came to see it explained: “As parents, it was important to bring our children here. We’ve been preparing for it for a long time. I learned a lot about Christmas. We were asking on which date it should be celebrated. We learned the names of the wise men in order to see the story is not just fairy tale but it is a real story and this is the proof of it.”
The casket had been on show in Moscow before being taken to St. Petersburg where it will remain for another two days. The journey of the three wise men’s gifts will then start again. It goes to Minsk before finally stopping in Ukraine where thousands are expected to pay their respects.
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