Estonian Orthodox Church Marks Christmas as Holiday Celebrations Wind Down


Tallinn’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral held its first-ever nighttime service on Christmas Eve, celebrated on January 6 in accordance with the Julian Calendar.

Meanwhile, Tallinners honoring the Western calendar marked the end of winter celebrations with the revival of a medieval ritual – the burning of the Black Heads Guild’s Christmas tree.

In previous years, Russian tourists have been surprised to find that on Christmas Eve doors remained closed at the Estonian Orthodox Church, a semi-autonomous follower of the Moscow Patriarchate, ETV reported. Night service on Christmas Eve is a popular event in Russia, and for that reason the Estonian church decided this year to follow suit.

Estonia has two main Eastern Orthodox churches: The Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and follows the Revised Julian Calendar, also known as the “New Calendar.”

The former is currently busy preparing for a visit to Estonia by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Patriarchate, in June. Kirill plans to consecrate the new church being built in Tallinn’s Lasnamäe district. Construction of the church will have to be sped up because the patriarch originally planned the visit for September.