While most of the Western world has packed the Christmas decorations away, Orthodox Christians in the east are celebrating today.
Adhering to the Julian calendar, the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th. In Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, the Russian Patriarch delivered the festive service to a congregation of 5,000, including church leaders and politicians. Two thirds of the population of 144 million are members of the Russian Orthodox Church. It has enjoyed a major revival since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 . Temperatures as low as minus 42 Celsius in the Siberian city of Yakutsk didn’t stop President Vladimir Putin from attending the Christmas Eve service for the fifth year in a row. He urged worshippers to help others in need. In Serbia, Christmas Eve is marked by an ancient ritual. The yule log or “badnyak” is burned at twilight. According to tradition the light disperses the shadows of ignorance and evil. The leftover dry branches are then taken home, where they burn until midnight. In Macedonia, Christmas is observed with care and respect. Children go from door to door singing Christmas carols and receiving fruit, nuts and sweets in return. Later on families gather around bonfires before heading home for a festive dinner.