MOSCOW -- For Christmas, Vladimir Putin got to do something that many children dream of: fire a really big gun.
Under the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar, Christmas is observed on Jan. 7. During a visit to his hometown of St. Petersburg on Monday, the Russian president visited the Petropavlovsky Fortress on the banks of the Neva River and pulled the lever on the howitzer that fires a daily noontime salute.
The midday shot has been a tradition since 1865.
Putin's steely image was in full force for the event — bareheaded in the winter cold, he appeared to flinch only slightly when the cannon roared, then turned away with a thin smile.