Wednesday, September 14, 2011


   Russian Christmas is celebrated later than in other countries, including the Untied States and most of Europe.  Most Russian Christians belong to the Orthodox Church.  The Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar to schedule holidays.  Since they use a different calendar, their Christmas celebrations are 13 days later, on January 7th.
   After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, as were other religious celebrations.  Christmas was forbidden to be openly celebrated for 75 years.  In 1992, Christmas was once again allowed to be openly observed.
   Today, Christmas is once again celebrated in grand fashion.  Cathedrals are filled with incense, and the faithful participate in all night masses, amidst with painted icons of Saints.

   The Christmas Eve meal is served after evening mass.  The Christmas Eve feast is also a meatless meal.
   The table is covered by a white table cloth, symbolizing Christ's swaddling clothes.  Hay is brought forth as a reminder of the poverty into which Christ was born.  A tall white candle is placed in the center of the table, symbolic of Christ, "The Light of the World".  A large round loaf of Lenter bread, symbolic of Christ.  "The Bread of Life", is placed next to the candle.
   The Traditional Christmas Eve meal includes 12 main dishes, for Jesus' 12 Apostles.  Typically Russians enjoy foods such as: fish, borsch (beet soup), millet-stuffed cabbage, dried fruit soup, Kutia (whole wheat porridge with honey and poppy seeds).  Kutia is a traditional Christmas dish which is meant to promote long life, unity and good fortune during the Christmas season.


   The father of the family leads in "The Lord's Prayer".  The Lord's Prayer is followed by prayers of thanksgiving for past, present and future blessings.  After the prayers,  the father of the family proclaims "Christ is Born" and the family responds "Glorify Him".
   The mother of the family blesses each person, by putting a cross on their forehead with honey, saying, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life".
   The Russian Christmas Tree is called "Yelka".  The Yelka is a traditional Christmas symbol in Russia.  Most Russian's decorate their Christmas tree with lights and flowers.  The flowers on the tree are real and silk.

   St. Nicholas used to deliver Christmas gifts to the children, but Grandfather Frost took over in honor of the New Year during communist rule.  Grandfather Frost continues to deliver the Christmas gifts to the children, even though communism has fallen.  Instead of a Santa's red suit, Grandfather Frost wears a blue suit.  Grandfather Frost is accompanied by a handmaiden who hands out the presents.
   The legend of Babouschka has returned to Russia.  Babouschka is said to be a woman who helped to direct the Three Kinds to Bethlehem to visit the Baby Jesus.  She was invited to join the Wise Men, but declined because of the cold.  She changed her mind, but by that time the Wise Men wree gone.  Babouschka continues to spend Three Kings Day delivering presents and she searches for Jesus' crib.

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