Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas

More than 30,000 churches and cathedrals across Russia are holding religious services as Russia prepares to celebrate Orthodox Christmas.

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, will serve the Christmas Eve Mass in the cathedral of the Christ the Savior in Moscow.

About 5,000 believers are expected to attend the Mass and associated celebratory services. The ceremony is being broadcast live by Russia’s major TV channels.

Christmas is preceded by four weeks of Lent when people do not eat meat or dairy products. The Christmas Lent, as it is called, finishes on Christmas Eve as the first star appears in the skies. The star symbolizes the one seen above Bethlehem at the moment Christ was born.

The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, with Christmas falling on January 7. The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. It was later superseded by Georgian calendar, adopted in 1582.

Christmas is also celebrated on January 7 by the Ukrainian, Georgian and Serbian churches, as well as others who follow the Julian calendar.

Watch the live broadcast of the Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of the Christ the Savior on at 23:00 MSK (19:00 GMT).

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