Orthodox Christians mark Christmas Eve
The celebrations began early Sunday with a mass held in Hagia Yorgi Church led by Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Epiphany of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
On Saturday, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was formally got independence at a ceremony in Istanbul after receiving the Tomos of Autocephaly (autonomy) from Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew at the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Marina Poroshenko along with many tourists from Greece were also present during the service.
During his speech at Fener Greek Orthodox Church, Bartholomew said the mass on Jan. 6 marks a step for the independence of Orthodox Church and Poroshenko's attendance to the ceremony gave them power.
The service will be followed by ritual at the Fener dock in the Golden Horn, during which the patriarch will throw a large cross into the sea to be retrieved by a group of swimmers.
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, proposed by Latin Pope Gregory of Rome in 1582.
The former calendar runs 13 days behind.