Orthodox Christians Celebrate Christmas Worldwide

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 02:49 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Many Orthodox Christians in the former Soviet Union, Middle East — and to a lesser extent in the United States — will mark January 7 as Christmas Day in accordance with the "old" Gregorian calendar.
In Orthodox churches, the day will be celebrated with a special liturgy and the burning of frankincense.

Some of the faithful will have marked the Nativity Fast on January 6.

In overwhelmingly Muslim Egypt, Coptic Christians are observing the holiday under very tight security, the Times of Israel reported.

Egypt's interim ceremonial President Adly Mansour visited St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo underscoring the military-led government's commitment to ensuring the inclusion and safety of the Christian minority.

The church has been a target of anti-Christian violence.

In Damascus, Armenian Orthodox Christians marked the holy day modestly and with low church attendance. The ongoing civil war made traversing checkpoints in order to get to services difficult, Reuters reported.

In the Palestinian Authority, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, celebrated Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israeli news media reported.

A somber but less fraught Christmas is being celebrated in Montreal where Igor Oshchipko, pastor at The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Parish, said that the orthodox rite is rather more solemn compared to Roman Catholic Christmas, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Orthodox Christmas will last until Jan. 19 when The Epiphany is celebrated commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Christmas Eve is also the start of Svyatki, an early Slavic holiday now incorporated into the Christmas tradition, in which young maidens use mirrors and candles to invoke the image of their future husbands, according to the Voice of Russia.

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