By Burak Milli and Salim Tas
HATAY, Turkey (AA) - Christmas masses were held on Friday – Christmas Eve on some Christian calendars – by Orthodox churches in ancient cities in Hatay, Turkey's southernmost province.
In a ceremony at Iskenderun Orthodox Church in a city once known as Little Alexandria, Padre Dimitri Yildirim wished all those who celebrate a merry Christmas.
"I hope Christmas brings peace, abundance, fellowship, and happiness, especially to Turkey and our nation," he said.
The Christmas Eve mass in Iskenderun was also attended by Fatih Tosyali, the city's mayor, and other local leaders.
Another Christmas mass, led by Pontiff Jan Deluller of Antakya Orthodox Church and Dimitri Dogum was held in Antakya, a city known as Antioch around the time Jesus was born.
Speaking to the press after the mass, Fadi Hurigil, head of the Antakya Orthodox Church Foundation, also said he wished Christmas would bring peace, tranquility, and happiness to the whole world.
Following the mass, there was a fireworks display in the churchyard.
Gift baskets prepared by the local Hatay Municipality were distributed to those who attended the ceremony.
In Western Christianity, Christmas Day is celebrated on Dec. 25, but due to a calendar difference, many Orthodox churches mark Christmas on Jan. 7.
Several countries, including Russia, Georgia, and Armenia, celebrate Christmas in January.