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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 17:30 GMT
In pictures: Orthodox Christmas
A woman holds a child aloft as they light a candle during a holy Christmas Liturgy at St. Clement Cathedral Church in Macedonia's capital, Skopje
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Orthodox Christians around the world are marking the birth of Jesus Christ - which they celebrate on 7 January in line with the old Julian calendar.
Russian Patriarch Alexiy II welcomes the faithful to the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.
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In Moscow, Russian Patriarch Alexiy II called Russia's "rebirth of faith" after decades of communism a "miracle".
Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Euphimous the Saviour monastery in Suzdal
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President Vladimir Putin visited a monastery in the town of Suzdal to ring the bells on Christmas Eve.
Newly-elected Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in church, Tbilisi
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Neighbouring Georgia was marking Christmas with a youthful new president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who was elected on Sunday.
Orthodox Bishop Amfilohije in Cetinje, Montenegro
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In Montenegro, one man celebrated the occasion in his own style.
A Bosnian Serb woman lights a candle at an Orthodox Church in Sarajevo
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Some preferred a quieter celebration in neighbouring Bosnia.
A group of bakers in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, carry the traditional Christmas bread for the city.
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A group of bakers in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, carried the traditional Christmas bread for the city.
Worshippers pray in the Trinity Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 6 January 2004
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Coptic-Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia held a night-long prayer on Christmas Eve.
Ukraine's faithful in Pyrogovo, near Kiev, sing Christmas carols
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Many faithful in Ukraine celebrated with traditional Christmas carols.
Syrian Orthodox nuns in Baghdad's St Peter and Paul Cathedral
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In the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Syrian Orthodox nuns gathered in the St Peter and Paul Cathedral to mark Christmas Eve.
Gaza's Orthodox Bishop Alex (third left) and group of church attendants, pray during the Orthodox Christmas service at Saint Perforius Church in Gaza City
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And the faithful in the Gaza Strip prayed in the city's Saint Perforius Church.



Laura Talbot reports
"Christmas celebrations officially begin when the first star appears on January 6th"




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