In the past several years I have lived in various countries and observed how Christmas is celebrated in Estonia and USA. Originally I am from Russia and will be glad to share with you how our traditions of winter holidays are different from European and American celebrations.
Thirteen days after many countries in the world celebrate Christmas, on January 7th, it will be the time for Russia to observe this great holiday. I am sure some of you wonder why Russian Christmas is in January. The reason is that Russian Orthodox Church still uses the old Julian calendar.
After the 1917 Revolution and during the reign of communism, Russian people were forced to stop celebrating Christmas. Only in 1992 the holiday was openly observed. Therefore a lot of traditions, which existed many years ago, were lost. Nowadays, on Christmas eve family members get together for a 'Holy meatless supper' which includes 12 different foods symbolic of the 12 Apostles:
Borsch (soup made of beets), Lenten bread, garlic, honey, cod, oranges, apricots, nuts, kidney beans, pears, parsley potatoes and red wine. The main course of the dinner is porridge called Kutja. It is made of berries, wheat or other grains that symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds that ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest.
After dinner people go to the church for the service, which lasts till 2 or 3 in the morning.
Since the celebration of Christmas was banned for many years, such traditions as giving presents, Ded Moroz (Russian Santa Claus) and decorating the tree became the traditions of the New Year’s Eve. Ded Moroz comes over to the houses with his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snowmaid). He listens to the children singing songs and reciting poems and gives them presents. The tree is usually decorated right before the New Year’s Eve and stays till mid of January. Families and friends get together over dinner and stay up all night. An hour before midnight people say goodbye to old year and try to remember the good moments of last year. Some watch television and listen to the president’s greetings and in the bigger cities people gather at the main square. Right at midnight it is a custom to raise champagne glasses and toast for New Year.
Even though Christmas is back and nowadays people freely celebrate it, New Year’s is the biggest winter event in Russia!
Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!!! May this year bring all of us joy, happiness and health!
Written by Natalia, Community Manager for Russia