The first discrepancy with Catholic celebration is date: Orthodox feast Xmas on January, 7th instead of December, 25th. Reason for this is quite simple: usage of Julian calendar by Orthodox church whereas for all non-sectarian purposes the state uses Gregorian calendar. Change of calendars was made by the Bolsheviks in 1917 with interdiction of Religious Observances. As a result, accustomed holiday traditions like decorating a fir tree turned into New Year’s heritage. Since then New Year became more important for nation of this country so people whoop things up then paying less attention to Xmas. Until 1991 this holiday was unofficial and was considered to be just another occasion to gather a family around a holiday table. Today church fete is taken more seriously and many people attend liturgy this day.
Russian Orthodox Christmas traditions
Preparation for celebration starts long before January: Orthodox Christians have to fast for 40 days before noel – the Advent annually starts on November, 28th and finishes on January, 6th, however, many people do not eat until the evening of the January, 7th. When the first star appears on the sky symbolizing the birth of Jesus Christ the feast begins. After it people may go to the church on a midnight service. Usually Russians do not exchange presents on noel because they do it on the New Year’s Eve. Christmas tree is also called a New Year’s tree, however, many people decorate it with Christmas ornaments: paper, wooden or fictile angels.
Here pre-Christian festivals are closely connected with religious ones. Kolyada, a Russian tradition is to what on Christmas old Slavic festival honoring pagan god Veles is combined. This is one of the most favorite Russian Christmas traditions for children as they are allowed to parade from house to house in traditional character dresses, sing carols and receive sweets, food or money for it.
What people usually eat on Christmas in Russia
In Russia noel food traditionally is meatless and all dishes on the holiday table are symbolic. There has to be twelve dishes as Jesus had twelve apostles and a handful of hay that symbolizes manger where Christ Child was born. Main dish is kutya, wheat porridge with poppy seeds, fruits and raisins and a whole family has to eat it from common bowl – that is a symbol of family union. Lenten bread called kalach with a candle in a middle symbolizes prosperity and eternal life and is placed in the middle of table. Another candle stands on the windowsill inviting wayfarers and souls of ancestors to celebration. All dishes on the table should be fast: borsch, salads, dried fruits, sauerkraut, mushrooms etc. and everything has to be prepared avoiding milk plus milk products. However, for the most part people here do not fast so the holiday table usually is full of meat dishes. Mind that Xmas is rigorously family holiday and guests are usually not invited.
What about Russian Santa Claus?
In the Western world Santa Claus brings presents to children on the holiday Eve, but Eastern Europe has its own hero. Santa Claus in Russian tradition is called Father Frost and on the contrary to Santa, he has a relative – his granddaughter Snow Maiden. Their names sound like “ded moroz and snegurochka” and children always call for this couple on the New Year’s Eve in order to start celebration.
How do you say merry Christmas in Russian?
For those who want to congrats friends and surprise them with knowledge of traditional seasonal greetings, here is an instruction how to say merry Christmas in Russian: ‘s rah-zh-dee-st-VOHM’ or ‘s-schah-st-lee-vah-vah rah-zh dee-st-vah’. For those who want to send written greetings, here is how to write merry Christmas in Russian: C рождеством! or Счастливого рождества!
Now, empowered with knowledge about Birth traditions in Russia and knowing how to say merry Christmas in Russian language it is safe to travel to this magnificent country and get full immersion to the atmosphere of winter joy and happiness.