MOSCOW, January 7. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Orthodox Christians and all Russian citizens celebrating Christmas, noting the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in strengthening spiritual and moral foundations of society, the Kremlin press service reported on Tuesday.
"Millions of people all over the world are full with joy and inspiration on festive Christmas days, they share deep feelings of being a part of the centuries-old traditions, passed down from generation to generation," the message said.
"The Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations of Russia play a huge formative role in strengthening spiritual and moral foundations of society, in safeguarding our historical, cultural heritage, in educating young people. Such a large, fruitful work is very important and deserves the deepest recognition," the president said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier presented the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God to the Transfiguration Cathedral of St. Petersburg on Tuesday at the Christmas services.
For more than half an hour, the President, along with other worshipers, took part in a nightly Divine Liturgy, after which he briefly talked with the Archpriest of the cathedral, Nikolai Bryndin, and presented him with an icon as a gift. In response, the President received an icon of the Kazan Mother of God from Bryndin.
The Orthodox residents of Russia and other countries are celebrating Christmas on Tuesday, January 7. On Monday night, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia started the Christmas service in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
Further to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Serbian, Georgian and Polish Orthodox Churches, the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Athos monasteries and some Protestants and Catholics of the Eastern Rite also celebrate Christmas on January 7 or December 25 according to the Julian calendar.
Christians conclude a forty-day fast that lasted from November 28 of the last year until January 6. On Christmas Eve, they have special fasting, "until the first star," in memory of how the Magi came first to the birthplace of Christ following the star in the sky. At present, a candle in front of the altar, which is lit at the end of the Christmas Eve service, is brought to the middle of the temple, symbolizing the Bethlehem Star.
The Christmas celebration continues for twelve days (the so-called ‘Christmas tide’) and ends on the Epiphany Day on January 19.