Christmas in Russia is celebrated with a mix of religious traditions, cultural customs, and a strong emphasis on family and community. It's important to note that Russia primarily follows the Orthodox Christian calendar, which means that Christmas is celebrated on January 7th rather than December 25th. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Russia:
The Russian Orthodox Church plays a central role in the celebration of Christmas. The Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is a significant religious service, marking the birth of Jesus. Many people attend church services during this time.
Nativity scenes, known as "Rozhdestvenskiye yelki," are an important part of Russian Christmas traditions. These displays often depict the Holy Family, shepherds, angels, and the Three Wise Men.
Russian homes and towns are beautifully decorated with festive lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees. The Christmas tree, known as "yolka," is typically adorned with ornaments and garlands, and it is often placed in homes on New Year's Eve and kept throughout the holiday season.
Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, is a traditional Russian figure who is somewhat similar to Santa Claus. He brings gifts to children, typically on New Year's Eve. Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, often accompanies Ded Moroz in delivering gifts.
Christmas Eve, known as "Sochelnik" or "Svyatki," is the most important night of the holiday season. It is a time for a festive family meal, with traditional dishes such as kutia (a sweet grain dish), borscht (beet soup), and pickled herring. Families gather to share the meal and exchange gifts.
While gift-giving is an essential part of the holiday, it typically takes place on New Year's Eve, with gifts brought by Ded Moroz and Snegurochka. Christmas gifts are less common.
Caroling is a beloved tradition in Russia, with groups of carolers known as "kolyadniki" visiting homes and singing traditional Christmas carols. They often receive small tokens or money in return.
Many Russians participate in acts of charity during the Christmas season, helping those in need and supporting local charities and community organizations.
The holiday season in Russia extends into New Year's Eve, which is the most significant and widely celebrated holiday. Fireworks, parties, and public festivities take place to welcome the new year.
The Christmas season concludes with the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 19th. On this day, the Orthodox faithful participate in the blessing of water, which is believed to have special properties.
Christmas in Russia is a time for faith, tradition, and togetherness. The combination of religious customs, vibrant decorations, and a focus on the New Year's celebration creates a warm and joyful atmosphere during the holiday season, making it a special time for both Russians and visitors to the country.
In Russia, Christmas is annually celebrated on January 7th, thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church that has made it an official holiday in the country. Previously the occassion was observed on December 25th in much the same way as it was in the rest of the world, complete with Christmas trees and Christmas gifts, Saint Nicholas and the like. But after the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It was much much later, in 1992, that the holiday began to be openly observed again. However, the church in Russia still uses the old Julian calendar which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar used in the Western nations. This is why, Christmas is celebrated in Russia on January 7th. But these days, a few Russians have begun to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.
Today, Christmas is celebrated in the country in a grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in Cathedrals. The main religion in Russia is called Russian Orthodox. The Russian Orthodox Church is more than one thousand years old and most of the Christian population in the country belong to it. In Russia, many people don’t eat meat, eggs or milk from a few weeks before Christmas and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The menu usually depends on the wealth of the families. A typical Christmas dinner however, includes delicacies such as hot roast Pirog (Russian pies made out of meat or cabbage), and Pelmeni (meat dumplings). The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. The traditional ingredients that go in its preparation are wheatberries (or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality), and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success and peace. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.
A Christmas ceremony of great significance here is the blessing of individual homes. During Christmastime, a priest visits every home accompanied by boys carrying vessels of holy water. A little water is sprinkled in each room, which is believed to usher in happiness and fortune to them. Another popular custom here is that of young children going from house to house on the first day of Christmas carrying a star and singing carols and getting sweets from adults.
Russia celebrates a white Christmas what with the weather being very cold and snowy during this time and the temperature always dropping to minus degrees.