Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, in line with the Julian calendar. Following a 40-day fast, the festivities start on the eve of January 7 and will continue for almost two weeks until Epiphany, Feast of the Three Kings. The first star also signals the start of the Christmas dinner. Many people visit friends and relatives, as well as give and receive presents, on January 7. Prior to Christmas Day, there is Christmas Eve, which marks the start of an old Slavic holiday, Svyatki, in which young women used a mirror and candles to invoke the image of their future husbands. Like going to church, fortune-telling on Christmas Eve is again becoming popular in Russia.
It is traditional also for the President to address the nation:
"The celebration of Christmas is one of the sources of our spiritual traditions, linked to the Christian ideals of morality and mercy which have for centuries been major values and milestones for the people and basis for the social life in Russia," an English-language statement on the presidential website read.
"Today, they continue to strengthen the moral foundations of our society and maintain the atmosphere of mutual respect, religious tolerance and concord," the statement went on.
Christmas is the time for good wishes and good deeds. Let the light of this holiday always be with you, give you confidence, bring joy and hope."
President and Mrs. Medvedev attended the Christmas mass at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in central Moscow. A night Christmas service ended at 2 o ’ clock in the morning. It was attended by more than 5,000 people.
Afterwards, the president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, exchanged Christmas gifts at the altar. Dmitry Medvedev presented a modern hand-written New Testament with miniatures to Patriarch Kirill, while the head of the Russian Orthodox Church gave a four-volume edition of the works of Russian writers and poets of the 14th-20th centuries to President Medvedev.
There are more than 800 Orthodox churches in Moscow, and over 29,000 Russian Orthodox Churches across the globe.
Orthodox Christmas is a national holiday in Russia so banks and public offices are closed on January 7. If Christmas Day falls on a weekend, the non-labor day moves to the following Monday. Russian authorities may sometimes declare a national vacation from January 1 to 10 due to the close proximity of New Year's holidays (January 1-5), Christmas and the weekends between these two holidays.
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