Christmas day in Russia (and many other places around the world!)

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, center, leads an Orthodox Christmas service in Moscow's Christ The Savior Cathedral, in Moscow.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. +

Merry Christmas from Russia.

Merry Christmas from Ukraine.

Merry Christmas from the Asian Republics.

Merry Christmas from Moldova.

Merry Christmas from Georgia.

Merry Christmas from Serbia and Croatia.

Merry Christmas from Belarus.

Merry Christmas from Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Merry Christmas from Egypt.

Merry Christmas from Ethiopia.

Merry Christmas from central African countries such as Eritrea.

Merry Christmas from Syria and Antioch.

Merry Christmas from Constantinople.

Merry Christmas from Armenia.

Merry Christmas from Macadonia.

Christmas came to the Eastern world today while the West was sleeping. In Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, held a somber overnight mass led by Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria at the Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo.

Egpyt's Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria leads the Coptic Orthodox Christmas celebration at the Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, overnight 6-7 January.

Christmas is an illegal holiday in the city which was once the centre of Orthodox Christianity. The Patriarch of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul in Turkey, proclaimed news of joy and peace to Orthodox believers all over the world. His small compound in the ancient city is the only place in Turkey where Christmas can be observed without fear of arrest. Turkey is officially a secular state, but the reality lies in it’s domination by Islam.

Peaaceful Christmas morning, 7 January 2010, in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

Christmas came today on January 7th 2010, and Eastern Christians around the world, from Jerusalem to Russia, from Serbia to Georgia, and from places as diverse as Egypt, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Ukraine, and the former Eastern Soviet Republics all ended the 40 day Nativity fast with a strict fast, holy supper, Grand Liturgy and by burning dried oak branches.

Surprisingly, most Western Christians don’t realize that for much of the world,  including the Holy Land, Christmas falls not on 25 December, but on 7 January. But even if apart from the West, after the liturgies ended the mood turned to one of hope and celebration.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana make the sign of the cross during the overnight Christmas liturgy at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, largest Orthodox church in the world.

Traditionally, the night before Christmas is considered the triumph of all the evil forces, which are panicking before the birth of the Saviour. The arrival of the Messiah is God’s seal of victory over sin and the coming home of resurrection as seen at Easter.

 On Christmas Eve, Russian television broadcasts live the divine service conducted by Patriarch of all Russia Kyrill from Russia’s main church, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which is attended by the president, prime minister, heads of the parliament chambers and thousands of Russian believers.

Christmas for Orthodox believers is a very intimate holiday, the miracle of the God’s birth to the Virgin. For the Orthodox Church Nativity is a holiday of eternal motherhood, of the Holy Mother and Christ, and the birth of any soul is held sacred.

Рождество - это так прекрасно! (Christmas--is so beautiful!)