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Orthodox Christians Observe Christmas

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theofilos III (r) visits the Mar-Elias monastery during the Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve in Jerusalem, 6 Jan 2011

Orthodox Christians who follow the old Julian calendar are observing Christmas.

Churches in Russia, Georgia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro, among others, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 7, as does the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt.

In Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev said Christmas brings “timeless values of love and kindness” that have contributed to the “moral values and unity of the Russian people.”

Serbian Patriarch Irinej reminded the faithful that Christmas is a holiday of peace and love and urged them to live in that spirit.

Coptic Christians observed the holiday under tightened security following a church bombing on New Year's day in Egypt, which killed 21 people.

Germany is providing police protection for Coptic Christians during the holidays. The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany Aiman Mazyek was to attend a Coptic Christmas service in the city of Dusseldorf in a sign of solidarity. The council is an umbrella organization of numerous Muslim groups in Germany.

The Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations that have accepted the new (Gregorian) calendar observed the Feast of the Epiphany on Thursday. The holiday, also know as Three King's Day, marks the end of the Christmas season.