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Christmas Magic in Russian Culture

Posted on December 17th, 2010

Russian ChristmasI love Christmas time! Decorating a freshly cut Christmas tree with the ornaments we’ve had since I was a baby. Looking forward to laughing at my dad’s jokes and enjoying my mom’s cooking over the Christmas dinner.. Christmas always brings the sweetest memories of childhood to every one of us. Today we will talk about Russian Christmas.

You can also learn Christmas vocabulary in Russian in these video lessons:

You can also learn about traditional Russian Christmas dishes and try these Kutya and Vzvar recipes:
Russian Christmas Celebration – Kutya and Vzvar Recipes
You can also learn about how New Year’s is Celebrated in Russian culture.

Christmas in Russia

Christmas celebration was brought to the Russian culture by Peter the Great after his travels to Europe in the 1700s. Back then it was celebrated with gifts and Christmas tree decorations. However, after the revolution in 1917, religion was banned through Russia along with Christmas celebration. To keep the magic Christmas spirit alive, people started decorating trees and exchanged gifts for New Years instead… this is why while visiting Russia nowadays you will notice that the trees are still being decorated and presents given for New Year’s eve…

Russian Christmas on January 7th? Huh?

That’s right, Russian Christmas is mostly celebrated on January 7th. I say, mostly because in some families it is celebrated twice on December 25th and then on January 7th.

Well, it is only because the Russian Orthodox Church didn’t change to the Gregorian calendar that’s used by the majority of the countries including Russia. Instead,the Orthodox Church still uses the Julian Calendar. According to the Julian Calendar, December 25th is on January 7th. This is why some families celebrate it twice.. Well, why not? As long as lots of good food and fun is involved?… :)

Did Santa Claus Get Lost?

If you wake up on Russian Christmas day and don’t find any presents around, please don’t worry, Santa didn’t get lost while traveling across Europe or got stuck in your very narrow chimney. I don’t want to upset you, but Santa is not coming. Not today anyway… :-(

Since religion was banned after the revolution in 1917, Santa no longer comes during Russian Christmas. The good news is that he comes at New Year’s Eve in the form of  Дед Мороз [DYED  ma-ROZ] Father Frost with his grand daughter Снегурочка [sni-GOO-rach-ka] Snow Maid, and this is when he brings presents.

So, How is Russian Christmas  Celebrated Nowadays?

Christmas Eve in Russia is called Сочельник [sa-CHYEL’-nik]. The whole family gathers around the dinner  table for Christmas to share the celebratory meal.The dinner is called the Holly Dinner or in Russian - Святая вечеря [svya-TA-ya vi-CHYE-rya].

No Turkey? Oh No, What a Disappointment… :-((

No, turkey is not served at the Holy Dinner in Russian culture. In fact, according to the Christmas fast, meat should be excluded from the diet until January 7th.

According to the Russian Orthodox Church it is very important to prepare yourself for the birth of Jesus Christ by praying and fasting. However, not many families do that nowadays… Fasting starts 40 days prior to Christmas and ends on  Christmas day.That means that meat, fish, eggs or any other animal food should not be served at the Christmas dinner.

According to the tradition, fasting will last until the first star in the sky appears… well, it’s good if the sky is clear, but what if it rains and you cannot see any stars?…  :-?

So, what is served for Christmas dinner? Кутья [koo-TYA] Kutya is the main dish that was traditionally served at Christmas dinner. Kutya is a dish made from wheat, or other grains with honey and fruit. It symbolizes hope, peace and happiness.

According to Russian tradition, it is essential to have 12 dishes at the Christmas table as a symbol of the 12 apostles.

Things to Do on Russian Christmas Night

If you are a girl you can try to tell fortunes using old,very well known techniques. For example, if you would like to know your future husband’s name, you can go out at 12am (!) on Christmas Eve and ask the first guy you see to introduce himself,then his name will be your future husband’s name..

Yup, I did try that…

Or if you would like to know a little more details about your near future, try this: put a wax candle in a metal pot, melt it on a stove and then quickly pour in cold water. Now you can predict more then just the name by looking at the wax figures in the water. If you see a house, then it means you will be buying a house soon, if you see a big bag, it means a bag of money and you’ll become rich soon… :)  and so on…

Although some say that it’s a big sin to try to predict your future on Christmas Eve night, I think it’s more fun then anything else…

If you love singing   you   can   join   crowds of young people going from home to home singing Christmas carols or in Russian колядки [ka-LYAD-ki], and collecting treats.

If you didn’t like neither of my suggestions, then you can just stay at home and enjoy Christmas dinner with your loved ones. Whatever you do on Christmas, just be nice and happy – this is what the celebration is all about!

Merry Christmas! And now you are probably wondering how you can say the same in Russian? :)

Merry Christmas! in Russian is Счастливого Рождества!

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