- Title: RUSSIA/ GEORGIA/ UKRAINE: ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS
- Date: 6th January 2004
- Summary: (W8) TBILISI, GEORGIA (JANUARY 6-7, 2004) (REUTERS) WIDE/ PAN OF WORSHIPPERS HOLDING CANDLES OUTSIDE OF TBILISI CENTRAL CATHEDRAL SLV FORMER PRESIDENT EDUARD SHEVARDNADZE GREETING GEORGIAN PATRIARCH ILYA II
- Embargoed: 21st January 2004 12:00
- Location: SUZDAL AND MOSCOW , RUSSIA, TBILISI ,GEORGIA, KIEV .UKRAINE
- Country: Russian Federation Ukraine Georgia
- Topics: General,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAAZAFUWNAF4V091HBIFJZC327Z
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Orthodox countries celebrate Christmas.
Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas across the former Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated Christmas at Suzdal Cathedral, in Central Russia, on Tuesday night (January 6). Orthodox Christmas begins officially when the first star, symbolising the star of Bethlehem, appears in the sky on the night of January 6, which, according to the Julian calendar, represents the eve of Christ's birth.
The holiday is also a time for secular celebrations. In Moscow street peformers put on a theatre of fire at a park in the city centre. Their performance builds on ancient Russian folklore where Christmas Eve was believed to be a night when the forces of light and darkness came down to the earth. Peasants would also burn large bonfires to celebrate the end of the longest winter nights.
In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, worshippers from various Orthodox branches as well as the Greek-Catholic church observed one of the most holy days in their church calendar with midnight prayer services.
In the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the Christmas holiday seemed to provide the nation a chance to close deep political divisions following a street-protest revolution that toppled the government in November. Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilya II welcomed former President Eduard Shevardnadze and led him in worship along with his former political enemies, interim president Nino Burdzhanadze and president-elect Mikhail Saakashvili. It was the first public meeting between the three political leaders since their political standoff in November that had many Georgians fearful of a civil war.
Following the old-style Julian calendar, Orthodox believers celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 07 as opposed to December 25, the day observed by Catholic and Protestant Christians in the West.
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