Saturday, December 11, 2010

A little word about Russian Christmas and New Year traditions


Russian Christmas Religious Traditions


Russian Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7th (following the Old Calendar this is the 25th of December) and the celebration lasts for six days.


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 In the Orthodox tradition nothing is eaten or drunk on Christmas Eve until the first star appears in the sky. The star is symbolic of the great star that led the Magi to the newly born Christ. Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin with a Lenten meal - meaning meat or dairy products (including chocolates) are excluded. This Christmas Eve meal is "The Holy Supper" .

The family gathers around the table to honor the coming Christ Child. A white tablecloth is used to symbolize Christ's swaddling clothes and hay is displayed as a reminder of the poverty of the place where Jesus was born. A tall white candle is placed in the center of the Table, to symbolize Christ - the "Light of the World." A large round loaf of "pagach", a special Lenten bread, is placed beside the candle to symbolize Christ - the "Bread of Life".

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The father begins the Christmas meal by leading the family in the Lord's Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year and for the good things to come in the new year. The head of the family greets those present with "Christ is Born!" - the traditional Russian Christmas greeting - and the family responds with "Glorify Him!" The Mother then draws a cross with honey on each person's forehead, saying a blessing - "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 and in the new year." The Lenten bread (Pagach) is then broken and shared. The bread is dipped first in honey to symbolize the sweetness of life and then in chopped garlic to symbolize life's bitterness. The "Holy Supper" is then eaten. After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. The family goes to church for the Christmas Mass which lasts until after midnight.

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 Traditionally, the "Holy Supper" consists of 12 different foods, symbolic of the 12 Apostles. Although there was also some variation in the foods from place to place and village to village, the following is a good summary of what is typically served.

1) Mushroom soup with zaprashka (or Sauerkraut soup)
2) Lenten bread ("pagach")
3) Chopped garlic
4) Honey
5) Baked fish
6) Fresh Oranges, Figs and Dates
7) Nuts
8) Kidney beans (cooked slowly all day) seasoned with shredded potatoes, lots of garlic, salt and pepper to taste
9) Peas
10) Parsley Potatoes (boiled new potatoes with chopped parsley and margarine)
11) Bobal'ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppy seed with honey)
12) Red Wine

On Christmas morning the family returns to church for the Christmas day Liturgy. After church the family gathers together to exchange gifts and share a special Christmas meal. Children go from door to door caroling the song "Thy Nativity".









"C Rodzhestvom Kristovom"(srod-zshest-vum krist-o-vum) is a common Russian Christmas greeting, meaning "with the Birth of Christ!"

Christmas Carols (Picture source)


Russian Christmas Folk Traditions


Russian Santa: Grandfather Frost is the Russian Santa Claus. He brings gifts to the children at New Year's, which is the most popular Russian holiday celebration. His grand-daughter, the "Snowmaiden", accompanies him to help distribute the gifts.

New Years Eve - December 31st - is the big day for the celebration of Russian Chrsitmas in post-revolutionary, Russia. On New Years Eve Grandfather Frost (Russia's version of Santa Claus) arrives with his granddaughter the Snowmaiden. They bring bags of candy for the children and Grandfather Frost listens to the girls and boys sing songs and recite poems. After this, he gives small Christmas gifts to the children.


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Russians decorate their homes with a Christmas tree and often put pine leaves on their front doors, and in the house. The Russian Christmas tree is usually taken down at the end of January after the feast day of the Baptism of Christ.

"C novom godom!" (snow-vum gode-um)- meaning "with the New Year" - is a common New Years Eve - Christmas holiday greeting.

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2 comments:

  1. Russian Christmas Religious Traditions.

    What an absolutely wonderful tradition. This is truly how Christmas should be celebrated.
    In the Western World it is too commercialized and the true meaning of Christmas has been all but lost.

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  2. I couldn't argree with you more, Roger. It reminds me of that verse in the Bible where the murchants were selling in the temple and Jesus upturned the tables.

    ReplyDelete

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