Putin greets Christians and Russians during Orthodox Christmas celebrations

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his greetings to Russians and Christians during the Orthodox Christmas celebrations on Jan. 7 and highlighted the Church's contribution to the development of moral ideals in today's society.

(REUTERS / Vasily Maximov / Pool)Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to delegates of the Russian Engineering Union congress in Moscow, Russia, April 19, 2016.

In his statement quoted by a Kremlin press service, Putin said Christmas highlights Orthodox Christians' "spiritual origins and fatherly traditions, and unites them around eternal Christian values." The Russian president also praised the Church for its role in strengthening people's morals and addressing the important social problems, Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty relayed.

Putin went to the Orthodox Christmas services held at the Church of saints Simeon and Ann in St. Petersburg on Jan. 7. Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, on the other hand, conducted the Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

Jan. 7 is considered a national holiday not only in Russia but also in Egypt, Ethiopia, Belarus, Macedonia, Serbia, and other countries that celebrate the Orthodox Christmas. The Armenian Orthodox Church, however, celebrated the occasion a day ahead.

The Epiphany, which is celebrated on Jan. 6, is considered the official end of the Christmas season for Christians. The occasion, which is otherwise known as the 12th Day of Christmas, honors the time that a star led the Wise Men or Magi to the baby Jesus, The New York Times explained.

In Spain, Christians celebrate the Epiphany by watching colorful street parades with their respective families. However, the recent terror scares have led Madrid and Barcelona to beef up security during the festivities, and large vehicles were prohibited from using streets near the parade sites.

In the Czech Republic, people celebrate Epiphany by taking a dip in the icy Vltavva River near the Charles Bridge. Bulgarians, Greeks, and Russians, also share a similar tradition.

In Mexico and Southern California, locals bake sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes, which looks like a crown but has a baby figurine concealed inside it to symbolize Jesus' family's efforts to keep him from King Herod. The person who gets the baby figurine is the one who will prepare the feast for the Candlemas on Feb. 2.