Badnjak’ ceremony in Serbia
A Serbian Orthodox priest attends the ceremonial burning of oak tree branches, or badnjak, on Christmas Eve outside the St. Sava church in Belgrade. The ceremony is accompanied by prayers and other rites and is widespread among Orthodox Christians in the Balkans.
Putin attends mass
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a Christmas liturgy at a St. Petersburg church on January 6. Russia has the largest Orthodox population, which celebrates Christmas according to the Julian calendar.
Orthodox celebrations in Bethlehem
Palestinian scout bagpipers perform ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations outside the Church of Nativity in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. The bagpipe-playing Christian scouts are a legacy of British colonialism in the Holy Land.
Epiphany day in Istanbul
Greek Orthodox men braved the cold waters of the Golden Horn in Istanbul to commemorate Jesus’ baptism on Epiphany. In the ceremony, men jump from boats to fetch a cross thrown in the water. The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch is considered the leading church among nearly a dozen autocephalous Orthodox churches.
Epiphany in Bulgaria
Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria commemorate the baptism of Jesus with Epiphany day celebrations. More than 7,000 people in the Bulgarian town of Kalofer sang and danced in and around the river Tundzha. Orthodox priests throw crosses into the river that are retrieved by men.
Egypt’s el-Sissi supports Copts
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi (R) speaks next to Coptic Pope Tawadros II during a Christmas Eve mass in Cairo. Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been under attack from Islamist militants, whom al-Sissi, a Muslim, has vowed to crush.
Copts in Athens
Coptic Christian women in Athens, Greece, celebrate Orthodox Christmas at a church. There are about 10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt, and an estimated 1 million spread across Africa, Europe and North America.
Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia
After Russia, Ethiopia has the second-largest Orthodox Christian population with nearly 36 million adherents. The Ethiopian Orthodox church was founded in the early 4th century when the Axumite Kingdom converted to Christianity.