Orthodox Christians in Turkey celebrate Christmas Eve, Greek diplomats attend Istanbul service
The celebrations began early on Jan. 6 with a mass held in Hagia Yorgi Church led by Patriarch Bartholomew.
After the service, a ritual took place at the Fener dock in the Golden Horn, during which the patriarch threw a large cross into the sea for a group of swimmers to retrieve.
Due to a difference in calendars, many Orthodox churches mark Christmas Eve on Jan. 6 and Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7 and not Dec. 25.
Several countries including Russia, Georgia, and Armenia celebrate Christmas in January.
The majority of Orthodox churches worldwide use the Julian calendar, created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC, and have not adopted the commonly used Gregorian calendar, introduced by Latin Pope Gregory of Rome in 1582.
The former calendar runs 13 days behind.
Coptic Church holds mass under tight security
In Egypt, the head of the Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II led midnight mass in the cathedral of Egypt’s new administrative capital on Jan. 6, a service attended by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The mass on the eve of Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on Jan. 7, was the first to be held in the newly-built cathedral and took place amid tight security. Sisi was cheered by worshipers as he entered the building.
The celebrations were held days after attacks on a Coptic church and another Christian-owned shop, which left more than 10 people dead.
Egypt’s large Christian minority has increasingly been targeted in recent years by militant groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is waging an insurgency in the north of the remote Sinai Peninsula.