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Eastern Orthodox Christmas to become public holiday in Latvia -- President

February 22, 2012, 22:38 UTC+3

Berzins believes that Eastern Orthodox Christmas should finally be recognized as a public holiday

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RIGA, February 22 (Itar-Tass) — Eastern Orthodox Christmas should become an official public holiday in Latvia, President Andris Berzins said Wednesday after a meeting with Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.

“We can close eyes to it and make pretences, but I do support it from a purely human point of view, although it’s up to the Saeima /the national parliament/ to decide,” he said.

Berzins believes that Eastern Orthodox Christmas should finally be recognized as a public holiday so that the country could continue moving forward.

The Concord Center, the largest opposition movement representing the interests of this country’s populous Russian-speaking community, has drafted a bill declaring a national holiday on January 7 /December 25 under the ‘old- style’ Julian calendar that is in effect in a number of Eastern Christian Churches/, a day on which the followers of Russian Orthodoxy and the Old Believers mark Christmas.

Spokespeople for the Concord Center told Itar-Tass Wednesday the bill will be submitted to the Saeima as an amendment to the national law on public holidays and commemorative dates.

“Official recognition of the Eastern Orthodox Christmas isn’t an ethnic or a linguistic issue because this country’s Orthodox Christian community embraces Russians, Latvians and people of many other ethnicities likewise,” says Nil Ushakov, the first ethnic Russian currently holding the post of mayor of the capital Riga.

“Official recognition of the holiday will send a very important signal to the Latvian Russian-speaking community, as most of them are either mainstream Orthodox Christians or the Orthodox Christians of the Old Rite /Old Believers/,” Ushakov said.

Latvia has a population of about 2.5 million, and 350,000 people of that number are Russian Orthodox and Old Believers.

The Saeima puts up for voting the proposals to give the Orthodox Christmas and Easter the status of national holidays.

The opposition’s attempts to have the bill passed into law have failed to bring results so far, but still some success has been reached. As of 2008, Latvia marks March 8, the International Women’s Solidarity Day, although the latter has not become a day off work.

President Berzins said earlier Eastern Orthodox Christmas could be declared an official holiday in Latvia.

“I agree that Orthodox Christmas should be declared a holiday,” he said, “I don’t want to put any pressure on the Saeima but I think the issue could be settled quickly enough.”

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