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Patriarch Kirill to hold Christmastide service in Kremlin

January 08, 2012, 4:17 UTC+3

The patriarch will hold the Great Christmas Vespers at 16:00 MSK at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

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MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) — Christmastide has come to Russia – during 12 days Christians praise the Nativity of Saviour Jesus Christ.

On Sunday, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will hold a Christmas service at the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The liturgy is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and other earthly relatives of Christ: the righteous Joseph the Betrothed, King David and Jacob, Brother of the Lord.

The patriarch will hold the Great Christmas Vespers at 16:00 MSK at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This festive service is loved by Muscovites, the church is usually filled with people. During Vespers Orthodox believers congratulate the Primate of the Church on the Nativity of Christ.

“God is born in the flesh in order to reveal His love to people and help every person who wants to hear His call find the fullness of life,” the patriarch said in his Christmas address.

Christian holidays are traditionally accompanied by charitable actions, and during these Christmastide day Kirill has called on the people not to forget the needy. The patriarch himself on Saturday visited children in a Moscow clinic for seriously ill. Christmas shows for children will also be held at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

In addition, the patriarch in his Christmas address urged the people to support by prayers the believers who are persecuted in their countries, in particular, in Nigeria, where hundreds of Christians have been killed over the past few days as a result of bombings and violence and about 90 thousand have fled their homes.

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It's a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration

After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn't until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it's once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints.

Christmas is one of the most joyous traditions for the celebration of Eve comes from the Russian tradition. On the Eve of Christmas, it is traditional for all family members to gather to share a special meal. The various foods and customs surrounding this meal differed in Holy Russia from village to village and from family to family, but certain aspects remained the same.

An old Russian tradition, whose roots are in the Orthodox faith, is the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The fast, typically, lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is very much a celebration, although, meat is not permitted. Kutya (kutia), a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.

Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin. Although all of the food served is strictly Lenten, it is served in an unusually festive and anticipatory manner and style. The Russians call this meal: “The Holy Supper.” The family gathers around the table to honour the coming Christ Child. A white table-cloth, symbolic of Christ's swaddling clothes, covers the Table. Hay is brought forth as a reminder of the poverty of the Cave where Jesus was born. A tall white candle is place in the centre of the Table, symbolic of Christ “the Light of the World.” A large round loaf of Lenten bread, “pagach,” symbolic of Christ the Bread of Life, is placed next to the Candle.

The meal begins with the Lord's Prayer, led by the father of the family. A prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings of the past year is said and then prayers for the good things in the coming year are offered. The head of the family greets those present with the traditional Christmas greeting: “Christ is Born!” The family members respond: “Glorify Him!” The Mother of the family blesses each person present with honey in the form of a cross on each forehead, saying: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year.” Following this, everyone partakes of the bread, dipping it first in honey and then in chopped garlic. Honey is symbolic of the sweetness of life, and garlic of the bitterness. The “Holy Supper” is then eaten (see below for details). After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. Then the family goes to Church, coming home between 2 and 3 am. On the Feast of the Nativity, neighbours and family members visit each other, going from house to house, eating, drinking and singing Christmas Carols all the day long.


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