MOSCOW -- From Kosovo to Ethiopia, millions will gather in churches and homes to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christians around the world will celebrate Christmas on Friday, Jan. 7.
In Russia, some have used the holiday to bring a deeper understanding for the reason behind the season. All this week, Muscovites have been in high spirits gearing up to celebrate the birth of Christ.
"Christmas for me means joy," a Russian citizen named Alexandria said. "This is when Jesus Christ revealed Himself to human kind."
"I'm praying for my family to come to know this Jesus who was born in Bethlehem," another named Paul said.
"Just as Christians in other parts of the world celebrate on December 25, we in Russia celebrate it on Friday with friends and family," Angela said.
Like Christians elsewhere, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas on Jan. 7, according to the old Julian calendar. On Thursday, Russians will take part in an all-night Mass in the dozens of cathedrals scattered throughout Moscow.
Christmas's Good News
Christmas was banned throughout Russia in 1917. Seventy-five years later in 1992 the holiday was again officially celebrated throughout the former Soviet Union.
However, not everyone is familiar with the Christmas story. In some corners of the city, the emphasis this week is on reaching those who've never encountered the true message of Christmas.
One of the largest evangelical churches in Moscow presented a week of drama performances telling a modern-day version of the story of Christ's birth.
"We use the 7th of January and this whole period in between the 1st of January and the 7th of January to tell people about Jesus," Paul Renner, with Moscow's Good News Church, said.
For many in the audience, both young and old, it was their first time to hear the name of Jesus.
"I've never heard this story before," one man said. "It is really moving and very professional."
"This is my first time being in a church and I found it very entertaining," one girl said.
Other evangelical groups are focusing on the next generation. Through an initiative called Project Hope, Russian Ministries distributed some 50,000 Christmas presents to needy children, street kids and orphans throughout Russia and the surrounding regions.
Each box was filled with toys, school supplies, a childrens' Bible and other literature geared for kids.
"We are partnering with more than 200 churches across Russia to bring the good news about Jesus Christ and His birth to many children," Paul Tokarchouk, director of Russian Ministries, said.
Russian Ministries hopes their oureach will change lives for Christ at Christmas.
*Original broadcast January 7, 2011.