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MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - It’s Christmastide in Russia. Orthodox Christians will celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ for the next 12 days. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will conduct a service at the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin on Tuesday. The liturgy will be devoted to the Holy Virgin and other earthly relatives of Jesus Christ.
In daytime, the patriarch will greet children who will be attending a New Year party at the State Kremlin Palace.
A Christmas festival will kick off at the Moscow House of Music on January 9. The program includes performances by the best spiritual choirs from Russia, Ukraine and Spain.
Puppet Nativity shows will be staged outside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.
The old halls of the Naryshkin chambers of the State Literary Museum will host the traditional Christmas Tales holiday. The “Tri Lika” (three images) Nativity Theatre will show a play there at noon. The Nativity Theatres from Lithuania and the Ukrainian city of Khmelnitsky will stage shows on other days. The Vagrant Booth Theatre will organize an Orthodox New Year festival on January 13 and 14.
Orthodox Christmas holidays are traditionally accompanied by charitable actions.
Over 1,500 volunteers have gathered thirty-five thousand gifts for orphans, families with many children, old and lonely people as well as the homeless as part of the “Give Joy for Christmas” action held at the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, a source at the Orthodox service called Miloserdiye (Charity) of the Synodal department on church charity told Itar-Tass.
"Good people brought not only sweets and chocolate but also expensive gifts such as household appliances, digital equipment, furniture and wheel chairs,” Yekaterina Metleva, the charity programs coordinator at the Miloserdiye service, said.
For example, the seven-year-old Misha Filimonov from a family with many children will get a much-desired drawing easel during Christmastide. Misha who used to suffer from infantile cerebral paralysis has almost been cured of his disease and is now going to an ordinary school. Misha is fond of drawing and his dream of having a folded drawing easel will finally come true at Christmastime.
Sisters of Charity, priests and volunteers will greet their fosterlings in boarding schools, hospitals, social adaptation centers or at home during the Christmas week from January 7 to 14. The first “Give Joy for Christmas” action was held last year. More than 24,000 gifts were collected in five Russian regions. The action’s geography has expanded this year. Volunteers and Sisters of Charity will hand out Christmas gifts in 14 cities in Russia as well as in Belarus and Tskhinval.
In the meantime, Christmas was traditionally marked in Georgia and Belarus on January 7.
A traditional Christmas procession known as Halleluiah was held in Georgian districts, cities and villages on Orthodox Christmas Day on January 7. In Tbilisi, people went through the Rustaveli Avenue to the St. Trinity Church. Children dressed in white gowns with red crosses sang songs announcing the news the Jesus Christ had been born. Clergymen carried crosses and the Savior’s icon in front of the procession. Catholicos Patriarch Iliya II met the procession near the St. Trinity Church. He extended Christmas greetings to Orthodox Christians.
People put sweets, fruit and toys in carts harnessed with mules. The donations will be handed over to orphanages, hospitals and homes for old people.
The tradition of holding the Halleluiah procession which is 15 centuries old was interrupted when Georgian became part of the USSR. It was restored in the mid-1990s at the request of Iliya II. Georgia adopted Christianity in the 4th century. Today, 84% of Georgia’s population (four and a half million people) are Orthodox Christians.
Orthodox Christians in Belarus on Monday marked Christmas, one of the most revered Christian holidays.
Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk conducted a liturgy at the Minsk Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
In his Christmas address Metropolitan Filaret noted that the state and the church had established good relations with each other. "We develop cooperation communicating in the language of moral values. Today, it’s important to remember that Christianity is turned not only to a community of people but also to each separate individual,” Metropolitan Filaret went on to say.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko also extended Christmas greetings to his compatriots. "According to an old tradition, god-believers in Belarus mark this family holiday at home with their relatives,” Lukashenko said. He wished that the Christmas holiday could unite the Belarusians, help them doing nice deeds and work to make their wonderful homeland prosperous.
At present, 80% of Belarusian population call themselves Orthodox Christians. More than 1,500 parishes and 1,300 churches, ten monasteries and 19 convents function in Belarus. Hundreds of religious institutions are being built.