Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Our FINAL week is dedicated to
New Year and Christmas Traditions 
in Russia!

Let's learn more about them.

You can make ONE post, make it short but full of information/
If you can add anything of value, use commentaries and replies.
Pls, read each other, do not duplicate! 

Each post is 3 points
Each commentary is 2 points
Each reply is 1 point


  1. From 13 to 14 January more than half of Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian population celebrete an Old New Year. This tradition appeared after 1918 when a new calendar was introduced in Russia. In ancient Rus' this day was January 1 and called Vasilyev day or "Vasilyev vecher". According to old tradition, in this day people lavishly laid the tably. The main dish was a pork as St. Basil the Great(the holiday was called after this saint)was considered as a patron of pig breeders. In this holiday various fortune-telling were widely spread.

  2. In Vasilyev day it was also customary to cook porridge early morning and watch a cooking process. If a porridge was failed people was waiting for a misfortune. It was also a bad omen if a pot where a porridge was prepared split. But if the porridge turned out well people ate it and waited for the good news.

  3. Here you can find Russian New Year and Christmas Greetings:

  4. Russian Christmas Religious Observances

    Christmas was not able to be publicly celebrated during much of the 20th century. In addition, many Russians identify themselves as atheists, so religious observance of Christmas has faded out of fashion. However, more and more Russians are returning to religion (Russian Orthodoxy), and therefore the number of people celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday continues to grow.

    Some Orthodox Christian Christmas traditions mimic those traditions in other parts of Eastern Europe. For example, a white tablecloth and hay remind Christmas Eve diners of Christ's manger. A meatless meal may be prepared for Christmas Eve, which is eaten only after the appearance of the first star in the sky.

    A Christmas church service, which happens the night of Christmas Eve, is attended by members of the Orthodox church. Even the President of Russia has begun attending these solemn, beuatiful services in Moscow.

  5. The Russian Santa Claus

    The Russian Santa Claus is named Ded Moroz, or Father Frost. Accompanied by Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, he brings presents to children to place under the New Year's tree. He carries a staff, wears valenki and is carried across Russia in a troika.

    1. The Russian Santa is Ded Moroz, which translates to “Grandfather Frost”. The legend is that he brings presents to children under the New Year’s yolka dressed in boots known as valenki and travelling in a Russian troika. He is accompanied by Snegurochka, a character from an old folk tale. She is said to be a Snow Maiden, who is the daughter of Spring and Winter and appears to a childless couple as a winter blessing, but melts when she falls in love with a human boy.

      Russian folk tales play a big part in Christmas traditions. The story of Baboushka is one that is often told to children in Russia and beyond. She was a lonely and frail old woman who was visited on a winter night by three kings who were following a star to visit a newborn king in a far eastern land. The harsh winter wind discouraged Baboushka from following the kings on their journey. The following morning in the light of the day when the air was warmer she decided to find the child, with a scarf wrapped around her head and carrying a basket full of food and gifts.

      They say she still wanders the streets and fields trying to catch up with the three kings, seeking the baby and leaving a gift for each child she passes. She is depicted very similarly to a traditional matrioshka doll.

      Despite Christmas being unfavoured under Soviet rule, the season has still seemed to hang on to festivities and celebration.

    2. St. Nicholas does visit Russia. He just goes by a different name, Father Frost or "Ded Moroz". Dressed in a long, red lap fur coat he is assisted by the beautiful Snow Maiden or “Snegoyrachka", who is dressed in a long-lap fur coat and boots.

      Under the communists all religious celebrations were banned. So New Year’s Day became the big holiday. It was also the day when Father Frost and Snow Maiden came to visit. Now they appear at both the New Year and at Christmas and good Russian children get double dose of presents

  6. Svyatki - Russian Christmastide

    Svyatki, Russian Christmastide follows the celebration of Christmas and lasts until January 19, the day Epiphany is celebrated. This two-week period is closely associated with pagan traditions of fortune telling and caroling.

  7. Christmas Gifts from Russia

    If you're looking for Christmas gifts from Russia, consider gifts like nesting dolls and Russian lacquer boxes. These gifts can be found on your travels, but you can also purchase these, and other items, online.

  8. Russia's “New” New Year

    The most extensive New Year celebrations in Russia occur on December 31st/January 1st. Fireworks and concerts mark this holiday. It is on this day that the Russian Santa, or Ded Moroz, and his companion Sengurochka visit children to pass out gifts. What those in the West would call a Christmas Tree is considered a New Year's Tree in Russia. Because the first Russian New Year precedes Christmas in Russia on January 7, this tree is left up in honor of both holidays.

    This New Year is considered the “New” New Year because began to be recognized after Russia made the switch from the Julian calendar (still recognized by the Orthodox Church) to the Gregorian calendar followed by the West. During the Soviet period, the New Year was celebrated in place of Christmas, though Christmas has been regaining importance as a holiday once again.

    Russians welcome the New Year by saying “S Novim Godom!” (С Новым годом!)

  9. Russia's Old New Year

    Russians have a second opportunity to celebrate the New Year, which falls on January 14th according to the old Orthodox calendar. This “Old New Year” (Старый Новый год) is spent with family and is generally quieter than the New Year celebrated on January 1st. Folk traditions, like the singing of carols and the telling of fortunes, may be observed during Russia's Old New Year, and a large meal will be served.

  10. Celebrating Russian New Year

    If you're in Moscow, you can head to Red Square to experience the most popular public New Year celebrations, but you can just as easily avoid the crush of people drinking Russian vodka and champagne and watch the fireworks display from another vantage point in the city. Remember, Russian winter is bitterly cold, and getting in an out of Red Square to watch the fireworks display can take hours. Private parties will feature traditional Russian food, and the hostess may set up a zakuska table for her guests, so if you don't have any Russian friends, make some!

  11. Christmas in Russia

    In Russia the religious festival of Christmas is being replaced by the Festival of Winter but there are some traditions that are still kept up in some parts of the country.

    In the traditional Russian Christmas, special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for 39 days, until January 6th Christmas Eve, when the first evening star in appears in the sky. Then begins a twelve course supper in honor of each of the twelve apostles - fish, beet soup or Borsch, cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more.

    Hay is spread on the floors and tables to encourage horse feed to grow in the coming year and people make clucking noises to encourage their hens to lay eggs.

    On Christmas Day, hymns and carols are sung. People gather in churches which have been decorated with the usual Christmas trees or Yelka, flowers and colored lights.

    Christmas dinner includes a variety of different meats - goose and suckling pig are favorites.

    Babushka is a traditional Christmas figure who distributes presents to children. Her name means grandmother and the legend is told that she declined to go with the wise men to see Jesus because of the cold weather. However, she regretted not going and set off to try and catch up, filling her basket with presents. She never found Jesus, and that is why she visits each house, leaving toys for good children.

    The role of Father Christmas was played by Dedushka Moroz or Grandfather Christmas.

    Babushka is a traditional Christmas figure who distributes presents to children. The word ''Babushka'' is translated to English as a grand-mother!

    A traditional Christmas figure is Snegurochka. She is a grand-daughter of Ded Moroz Photo of the two. For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit Hotels in Moscow for more information.

    1. St. Nicholas was always especially popular in Russia. The legend is that the 11th-century Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople to be baptized, and returned with stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra. Since then many Eastern Orthodox Churches have been named for the saint. The feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) was observed for many centuries, but after the communist revolution, the celebration of the feast as well as other religious celebration was suppressed.

      In the Soviet Union St. Nicholas was transformed into Grandfather Frost. This figure which highly reminds of Western Santa Clause became a symbol of New Year (see one of our previous posts “New Year in Russia”). The same transformation happened to the Christmas tree which became a New Year tree.

      Grandfather Frost was a personification of winter cold for our remote ancestors, and he needed to be blandished so the winter would not last longer and destroy the crop. The Soviet tradition demolished the folkloric roots of the character but made up a new role for it. He became an amiable grandpa who leaves presents for children under the fur three. Now this character combines both St. Nicholas form the Christian tradition and the folkloric Grandfather Frost and it highly reminds of Western Santa.

      Nowadays more and more people return to the Christianity. Though Grandfather Frost is still just a New Year character, many Russians fast on Christmas Eve, until the first star has appeared in the sky.

  12. The "Holy Supper"

    Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity. Some families used to throw a spoonful of kutya up to the ceiling. According to tradition, if the kutya stuck, there would be a plentiful honey harvest.

    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 was typically served. It comes to us from Elizabeth Kontras, who celebrated the Feast of the Nativity in the traditional Russian way with her babishka (Grandmother) and zeddo (Grandfather) in Monessen, Pennsylvania until their passing in the 1970-1980's. The twelve foods are:

    1) Mushroom soup with zaprashka; this is often replaced with Sauerkraut soup
    2) Lenten bread ("pagach")
    3) Grated garlic
    4) Bowl of honey
    5) Baked cod
    6) Fresh Apricots, Oranges, Figs and Dates
    7) Nuts
    8) Kidney beans (slow cooked 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 poppyseed with honey)
    12) Red Wine

    It was once common practice, on Christmas Eve, for groups of people masquerading as manger animals to travel from house to house, having themselves a rousing good time, and singing songs known as kolyadki . Some kolyadki were pastoral carols to the baby Jesus, while others were homages to the ancient solar goddess Kolyada, who brings the lengthening days of sunlight through the winter. In return for their songs, the singers were offered food and coins, which they gladly accepted, moving on to the next home.

    1. Traditions followed during the ‘Holy Supper’:

      The entire family gathers together at the table and lays a white cloth over it as a symbol of Christ’s swaddling clothes.
      Hay is spread on the table, which reminds one of the poverty of the cave where Christ was born.
      The family members place a tall white candle at the central part of the table. This symbolizes the fact that Jesus Christ is “the Light of the World”.
      Then they keep a round loaf of Lenten bread or ‘Pagach’ just beside the candle. The bread symbolizes the fact that Jesus Christ is the “Bread of life”.
      The meal starts only after the head/father of the family conducts a special thanksgiving prayer to their Lord and seeks his blessings for the coming year.
      The head of the family wishes the members present at the meal with the traditional Christmas greeting – “Christ is born!”
      The family members respond by saying “Glorify Him!”
      The mother of the family blesses each member by making the sign of a cross with honey on their foreheads, and 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 and in the new year.”
      Once this ritual is over, the members take in the Lenten bread dipped in honey and chopped garlic. Then the other foods in the ’Holy Supper’ are eaten.

  13. Why January 7?

    In ancient times, many, mostly unreliable methods had been used to calculate the dates according to either the lunar or solar cycles. By Roman times, the calendar had become three months out with the seasons, so in 46 BC, Julius Caesar commissioned the astronomer, Sosigenes to devise a more reliable method. This, we know as the Julian Calendar and was used widely for 1500 years. The month of his birth, Caesar had named Quintilis, but the Roman Senate later re-named it Julius (July) in his honour. In those days, February had 30 days every 4 years.

    However, this calendar was still 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year, so that by the year 1580, the calendar had accumulated 10 days off again. In 1582, therefore, Pope Gregory XIII corrected the difference between the sun and calendar by ordering 10 days dropped from October, the month with the least Roman Catholic Feast days. His calendar, we know as the Gregorian Calendar, which is used in almost all of the world today. Pope Gregory made further changes to keep the calendar in line, which on average is only 26.3 seconds longer than the solar year. The Gregorian Calendar is so accurate that it will take until the year 4316 to gain a whole day on the sun.

    That year, 1582, October 5th became October 15th and was immediately adopted in most Roman Catholic nations of Europe. Various German states kept the Julian Calendar until 1700. Britain and the American Colonies didn't change until 1752, but Russia and Turkey did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the early 1900's.

    So, January 7th by the Georgian Calendar would have been December 25th by the old Julian Calendar and is therefore why it is still Christmas Day for the Russian Orthodox Church. Many Russians will have celebrated along with the rest of us and will then celebrate again on the Orthodox date.

  14. Christmas Eve

    Russian Christmas Traditions

    The lead-up to Christmas in Russia is a busy time. It is only one week after New Years, and for many people it simply is a continuation of these celebrations.

    Before Christmas Eve, people clean and tidy their house and yard, and decorate the house in a lavish manner. Exquisite decorations, table cloths, napkins, and rugs are used to create a beautiful atmosphere. A Christmas tree is also common - sometimes adorned with foods due to the high cost of decorations.

    The food for Christmas is prepared for some days in advance, with turkey, stuffed pork, pies, pastries and sweets for children. In some families, a traditional Christmas dinner would not include any meat, although this is not so common in modern times. Either way, the dinner will be a bounty of food and drink, to celebrate the birth of Christ, and to prepare for the fasting period of Lent.

  15. Christmas Mass

    Most of the celebrating for Russian Christmas takes place on Christmas Eve, the 6th of January. Christmas Mass takes place on this evening, and in some cathedrals this ceremony can go long into the night. For most people, however, the mass will end early, and people return home for the Christmas dinner with their families.

    After dinner, children often go from house to house singing carols, and receiving sweets as gifts.

  16. New Year Celebrations in Pagan Rus’

    The tradition to celebrate the year’s beginning goes back to hoary antiquity. The ancients usually timed the New Year to the beginning of nature’s revival and so it mainly fell on March.

    In Old Rus’ there was for a long time the so-called pre-summer, i.e. the first three months of the year, starting with March. It was celebrated as avsen’, ovsen’ or tusen’, which later turned into the New Year. So, the first six months of the year formed pre-summer and summer, whereas the last six months were winter time. The transition from autumn to winter remained in the background, just like the turning of spring into summer. Initially the New Year was supposedly celebrated on March 22, the day of vernal equinox. Thus, Maslenitsa (Shrovetide) and the New Year celebrations coincided: winter was driven away, thus giving way to spring and the New Year.

  17. New Year after Christening of Rus’

    Together with Christianity (the year 988 marking the Christening of Rus’) Russia adopted the new chronology system - the Mundane Era of Constantinople, as well as the new European Julian calendar with names of months fixed. March 1 came to mark the beginning of the year.

    According to one version, in the end of the 15th century, or, by another version, in 1348 the Orthodox Church shifted the beginning of the year to September 1 in conformity with the Nicene canons. The shift was to associate with the growing importance of Christian church in the state life of the Old Rus’. Thus, the New Year was celebrated on September 1, the festivities accompanied with decorations of rowan trees and bright red berries.

  18. New Year Innovations of Peter the Great

    In the end of 1699 the Russian Emperor Peter I the Great issued an order to celebrate the New Year’s beginning on January 1 (by the Julian calendar at that) and for this purpose to decorate houses with pine-tree, fir-tree, and juniper branches.

    In the epoch of Peter the Great the Julian calendar was still generally accepted in many Protestant countries of Europe, and Russia then celebrated the New Year together with them, yet 11 days later than in Catholic countries, using the Gregorian calendar since1582. When in the 18th century practically all Protestant countries switched over to the Gregorian style (whereas Russia adhered to the Julian calendar until 1918), the New Year in Russia again stopped coinciding with that in the Western Europe.

  19. Abolition of New Year and its Revival

    In 1929 Soviet authorities abolished Christmas and fir-tree decorations that were declared “priest-like” customs. The New Year was also abandoned. However, following the article “Let’s Organize a Nice Fir-Tree for Children for the New Year!” by Pavel Postyshev, published in the major Soviet newspaper Pravda in the end of 1935, fir-trees and New Year festivities returned to people’s homes on December 31, 1935. Yet, it was not until 1949 that January 1 became an official day-off.

  20. St. Nicholas is especially popular in Russia. The legend is that the 11th-century Prince VladimirRussian Santa - courtesy of traveled to Constantinople to be baptized, and returned with stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra. Since then many Eastern Orthodox Churches have been named for the saint, and to this day, Nicholas is one of the most common names for Russian boys. The feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) was observed for many centuries, but after the communist revolution, the celebration of the feast was suppressed.

    During the communist years St. Nicholas was transformed into Grandfather Frost. Other religious traditions were suppressed during the communist era. Before the revolution, a figure called Babouschka would bring gifts for the children. Like Italy's La Befana, the story is that Babouschka failed to give food and shelter to the three wise men during their journey to visit the Christ Child. According to tradition, she still roams the countryside searching for the Christ Child and visiting the homes of children during the Christmas season. Babouschka never completely disappeared, and now in the post-communist era, has returned openly.

    Christmas trees were also banned by the Communist regime, but people continued to trim their "New Year's" trees. Most Christian Russians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest.

    A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. A priest visits the home accompanied by boys carrying vessels of holy water, and a little water is sprinkled in each room. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.

  21. Before 1917, Christmas was celebrated in Russia in much the same way as it was in the rest of the world: on December 25, with Christmas trees and Christmas gifts, Saint Nicholas and the like. During the years of Communism after 1917, all formerly Christmas traditions were transferred to New Year's Eve, which became the traditional winter holiday. New Year's Eve is now to Russians what Christmas is to most people in the rest of the world, with one exception: there is no remnant of Christianity in the holiday. New Year's Eve is simply a chance to celebrate, to bring in the new year and get rid of the old. It is a chance to exchange gifts, have a day off and enjoy oneself.

    Christmas is once again celebrated in Russia, but not near to the extent it once was. All
    the traditions have been firmly settled in New Year's, and very few people take advantage of the new freedom to celebrate Christmas as they wish. The Russian Orthodox Church has made Christmas an official holiday, but it is celebrated on January 7th. A few Russians have begun to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.

  22. New Year Eve instead of Christmas

    Few people in Russia remember, but when the communists took power in 1917 they banned the open expression of religion. While it was easy to pray at home, the Russian people were concerned about giving up their traditional Christmas celebration.

    But where there is a will, there is a way!

    They re-invented the New Year's holiday tradition to include a decorated tree, and introduced a character called "Grandfather Frost." Known as "Ded Moroz," Grandfather Frost looked very much like the western "Santa Claus" or "Pere Noel" - except he wore a blue suit.

    Actually, Ded Moroz was a character that existed in the pagan culture, centuries earlier. For a time, Christmas was all but forgotten. In fact, it was generally celebrated only in small villages, where the citizenry was far from the prying eyes of the Party.

    Today, Christmas is celebrated again, on January 7. But, to date, New Year's remains the bigger event.

  23. Gift-giving tradition:

    It is believed that Babushka, a traditional Christmas figure, brings gifts for children during this festival.
    ‘Babushka’ means ‘grandmother’.
    Legends say that she initially refused to visit Bethlehem with the wise men and see baby Christ at the time of his birth because of the cold weather conditions.
    But soon, she regretted it and filled her basket with gifts for Christ.
    However, it is said that Babushka never found Christ; so she visits houses every year with gifts and toys for kids.
    The origin of Santa Claus is related to St. Nicholas. But under the Soviet regime, St. Nicholas was replaced by Ded Moroz or Father Frost.
    It is believed that Father Frost comes along with Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden and brings presents for children.
    Father Frost is known to wear a valenki, a traditional winter footwear in Russia, and travels with his team in a troika.

    1. In Russia it is accepted to give gifts to the most close people for the Holiday New Year Holiday. The choice of a gift depends on well-being of family. For someone it can be for example the book, or clothes. And someone (few) presumes to present itself a new computer, the car or even an apartment. In any case try to pick up for a present that will be useful, or to pleasantly addressee of a gift.

  24. Masquerade

    Before ‘Trick or Treat’ was even thought about, Russian people during Christmas time used to wear masks, of animals for instance, knock on doors to sing carols and read poems for their neighbours, who in return gave them food. These days it is mostly only young people in villages who do this; wearing make-up instead of masks.

  25. 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.

  26. The Kremlin Clock Chimes
    The Kremlin Clock is a historic clock on the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin. Usually, for decades the chimes have rung on the quarter hour, with bells tolling for each full hour. Every New Year's night hundreds of people gather in the Red Square to celebrate the coming of the new year. They usually listen to the president's traditional speech and then wait for the first stroke of the Kremlin Clock, which marks the beginning of the new year. It is rather a solemn moment, so many people go to the Red Square every year, just to go through it again and again. But the majority of Russians go through that moment just sitting in front of TV, as the Kremlin Clock Chimes is a necessary part of special New Year's translation. So, there is no person in the country, who don't think of New Year, when he or she hears the Kremlin Clock Chimes.

  27. At the beginning of XX century, after the October revolution, all traditional holidays were declared the bourgeois relics , including the New Year, Christmas and New Year Tree. Only in 1930, the New Year Tree had received a permission to return. But the star on the tree became red and five-point. Gradually, natural treats were replaced by a sham - toys. Toys, with time, had become more complex, but the most popular toill nowadays are the balls - a reminder of apples, not stars, not the bells or other toys. The candles were replaced by electric lights. Even the trees have become synthetic. However, a live trees are still very popular, despite of the inconvenience of peeling off pine needles. That is, how a Russian New Year Tree looks today.

  28. 10 minutes before the New Year, television shows the President of the Russian Federation. In his speech, he sums up briefly the results of the year and congratulates the country with a holiday. After that, all TV channels broadcast the Kremlin chimes - the main clock of Russia, that, by their bells, herald the beginning of next year.

    After midnight, many Russians take off to the streets, salute and congratulate each other. In recent years, it has also become very fashionable to launch fireworks. Walking and celebration continues until 2 - 4 am. From 1 to 10 January the country has the New Year holidays.


    1. The President's Speech

      Every year on December 31, at five minutes to twelve, the incumbent President of the Russian Federation gives speech in record for the television. The President stands against the Kremlin and speaks shortly about the country's life in the outgoing year. Then he sends his greetings to all the Russians. The end of the president's speech is usually followed by the first stroke of the Kremlin Clock. Though the text for that speech is not very original, there can be some interesting moments during the speech. For example, in 1999 the first President of the Russian Federation (1991-1999), Boris Yeltsin, used his traditional New Year speech to make a surprise announcement of his resignation.

  29. Chinese Astrology

    Russians like their traditions, but they are also very good in adoption of some foreign culture elements. Many symbols of European and American Christmas holidays have already come into Russian culture and don't look like something alien. The truly amazing thing is Chinese astrology which have recently become a real madness for Russian people. Almost every person can tell you what is the symbol of the coming year (by the way, in 2012 it is a Dragon). It has become very popular to present souvenirs in the form of these symbols. Some people even try to cook the dishes the astrology animal would like or to dress in this animal's colours. Like all fashion trends this ardour for Chinese astrology is buzzy and kind of fool, but many people find it very funny, so Chinese Dragons, Snakesand Monkeys surely will come to visit us next several years.

  30. New Year Beliefs

    Give the money which you have borrowed back. It is a bad sign to ring in the New Year with old debts.
    People should forgive each other and make up with their friends and family.
    The New Year table should be full of tasty dishes and wine.
    The house or apartment should be all clean and decorated.
    There is a saying: the way you will see the New Year in is the way you will spend it.
    Some families have their own traditions. In some families, for example, people would open the door at midnight to let the old year out and to let the New Year in.

  31. Making a wish

    Russian ChampagneAt 11:55 (23:55) local time in each of Russia's 11 time zones, a pre-recorded address by the country's president appears on TV, listing the achievements of the past year and wishing people a happy and prosperous New Year. Many people watch this address and prepare to raise their glasses with champagne. At midnight, when the Kremlin clock strikes 12, they toast to the Kremlin clock's chiming and make a wish. Everyone can feel the magic of this moment and everyone believes that a wish made while the clock is striking 12 times will certainly come true. The Russian national anthem begins at midnight and people congratulate each other and welcome the New Year by saying "S Novym Godom!" The first to ring in the New Year in Russia are people in Kamchatka and Chukotka and the last ones are people in Moscow and other cities of western Russia.

  32. New Russians

    The whole period from January 1st till January 14th is a kind of winter vacations in Russia, when schools and most offices are closed. For many Russians Soviet-time May vacations were much more useful than long vodka-drinking winter vacations, because ordinary people used this opportunity to go to their dachas for gardening and preparing for summer season.

    But for new Russian elite, consisting of politicians, celebrities and oligarchs, the winter holidays give a good chance to spend extra money at the best world resorts.

    Traditionally, the new Russians prefer French fashionable ski resort of Courchevel, Cote d’Azur and Paris, where luxury hotels are busy adjusting prestigious Russian-themed parties with a special menu of beef Stroganoff, caviar, blinis and vodka to mark the Russian Old New Year.

    Anyway, the Old New Year parties put a stop in long Russian winter celebrations. Due to time zones, the Russian New Year’s arrival is celebrated nine times in this world’s largest country, starting from Russian Far East and finishing in Baltic Kaliningrad.

  33. New Year Eve instead of Christmas

    Few people in Russia remember, but when the communists took power in 1917 they banned the open expression of religion. While it was easy to pray at home, the Russian people were concerned about giving up their traditional Christmas celebration.

    But where there is a will, there is a way!

    They re-invented the New Year's holiday tradition to include a decorated tree, and introduced a character called "Grandfather Frost." Known as "Ded Moroz," Grandfather Frost looked very much like the western "Santa Claus" or "Pere Noel" - except he wore a blue suit.

    Actually, Ded Moroz was a character that existed in the pagan culture, centuries earlier. For a time, Christmas was all but forgotten. In fact, it was generally celebrated only in small villages, where the citizenry was far from the prying eyes of the Party.

    Today, Christmas is celebrated again, on January 7. But, to date, New Year's remains the bigger event.

  34. What products are hot to sell in Russia for the New Year Celebration?

    To answer this question we should look at the needs and wants of people celebrating it. What do Russians need for the New Year Celebration?

    Decoration and accessories

    Elka – the Christmas tree
    Decoration for Elka (balls, frippery, garlands, Santa Claus figures)
    New Year caps and costumes. Costumes are especially popular among small children.
    Present packing material and paper

    Food and beverages (source)

    Let´s look at the festive table now:

    Champagne or sparkling wine

    The absolute must of every Russian New Years´s table is Olivier Salad. Though there are many different recipes of this salad, the main ingredients are as follows:

    cooked sausage or meat
    green peas
    pickled cucumbers

    Other popular dishes include:
    “Herring under a fur coat” (Селедка под шубой) with following ingredients:

    herring filets

    Baked chicken with ingredients:

    lemon juice
    artemisia dracunculus
    white wine

    Turkey with ingredients:

    vegetable oil
    orange juice
    chilli pepper

    Aspic with ingredients:

    pork or beef

    Other products

    cheap tables
    and cots to provide for coming friends

  35. Fasting and prayers: Since ages, Russian traditions include fasting and offering special prayers for 39 days until Christmas Eve. It is the day when the first evening star can be seen in the sky.

    Festive meal: The Russians celebrate this special occasion with a 12-course ‘Holy Supper’, right after they get to observe the first evening star. The supper is prepared in honor of the 12 Apostles. Given below is a list of the food usually prepared during this festival:

    Mushroom soup with Zaprashka
    Chopped garlic
    Lenten bread
    Baked fish
    Oranges, dates, and figs
    Parsley potatoes
    Kidney beans seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper
    Red wine
    Bobal'ki (tiny biscuits eaten with sauerkraut or shredded cabbage fermented with lactic acid bacteria)
    Kutya (a kind of porridge) – a specialty food comprising whole-wheat grains which are soaked for hours and then flavored with crushed poppy seeds and honey.

  36. Historically, the Russian Christmas celebrations lasted for weeks as families gathered together to celebrate Christ's birth. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the Communists gained control of the country, Russian Christmas and other religious celebrations were banned. It was during this period that New Year's became the most celebrated holiday, with many of the Russian Christmas traditions being moved to that holiday under a more secular disguise.

    Russian Christmas does not take place on Dec. 25, as it does in most other areas of the world. When the Gregorian Calendar was adopted by many countries in the 1500s, Russia chose to continue using the Julian Calendar, even as recently as the early 1900s. The Russian Christmas, as adopted by the Russian Orthodox Church, takes place Jan. 7 in the Gregorian Calendar because that date is actually Dec. 25 in the Julian Calendar. However, many Russians still celebrate Christmas along with the New Year's holiday on Jan. 1.

  37. It is customary for Russians to fast on the Russian Christmas Eve until the first star is spotted in the sky. Once the star is seen, the Russian Christmas festivities begin. The Russian Christmas Eve dinner, often called "The Holy Supper," includes 12 foods and is begun with prayers and the father of each family stating the traditional Christmas greeting of "Christ is born!" Russian mothers bless everyone by drawing a cross with honey on their foreheads. Next the Lenten bread is eaten, first dipped in honey and then in garlic, followed by the dishes of "The Holy Supper." These courses normally include mushroom or sauerkraut soup, Lenten bread, chopped garlic, honey, baked fish, oranges, figs and dates, nuts, seasoned kidney beans, peas, parsley potatoes, Bobal'ki (biscuits with sauerkraut or poppy seed and honey) and red wine.
    After the Russian Christmas Eve meal, presents are opened and families attend Christmas Mass. During the Russian Christmas Day, many Russians attend church again and then spend the day visiting, eating, drinking and singing carols.
    Traditional Russian Christmas trees, or yolkas, are found in many homes on the days leading up to and following the Russian Christmas. Customary decorations include the hand-carved stacking matrioshka dolls, fruit and other homemade ornaments.
    Because the inclusion of St. Nicholas was banned under Communism, Russian children are visited by Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter the Snowmaiden on New Year's Eve or Christmas Eve. He brings presents to Russian children in his decorated sleigh led by reindeer

  38. Significance

    Many of the customs of a Russian Christmas are highly symbolic of the events surrounding the birth of Christ and his life. The 12 dishes of "The Holy Supper" are symbolic of Christ's 12 Apostles. The table is laid with a white cloth to symbolize the swaddling clothes in which Baby Jesus was wrapped and hay as a reminder of the lowly manger in which he was born. Lenten bread, which is round in shape, is meant to signify Christ as the "Bread of Life." Honey on the foreheads is meant to bless the person with sweetness and good things in the following year, while dipping the Lenten bread in honey and then garlic symbolizes life's sweetness and bitterness.

  39. Considerations

    It is remarkable that the practices of the Russian Christmas survived under the oppressive Communist regime that dominated Russia for so many decades in the 20th century. While many Russian Christmas traditions were translated to New Year's traditions, the meaning behind the customs remained the same. Today many Russians are again openly celebrating the Russian Christmas on the Russian Orthodox date of Jan. 7, while others celebrate Russian Christmas on both New Year's and the Orthodox date.

  40. Long, Long Holiday Week
    Russian people used to have day-offs on January 1-2 (New Year) and January 7 (Christmas), though it was quite difficult to be in the mood for work between these two holidays. Several years ago Russian officials decided to combine several not so important holidays in one long holiday week from December 31 to January. Moreover, if one of these day-offs fall to weekend, it is moved to another day, so usually the holiday week can last till January 10. Many people say it is too long, and such holidays cause a financial loss to the country. It is also very hard for people to enter the working regime after such a long rest. But officials still doesn't change anything, so it is very important to prepare for the holiday week in Russia and make it as interesting and active as it possible.

  41. 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".

    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.

  42. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, January 7th has become an official national holiday. This is the date of the Russian Orthodox Christmas; Nativity of Christ; celebration. Many Orthodox Christian traditions have adopted December 25th for their Nativity or Christmas celebration which culminates with the observance of Theophany (Feast of the Manifestation), the Baptism of Our Lord, on January 6th; January 20th on the old calendar.

    In the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, January 6th, is acknowledged as the Epiphany; the time when the Christ Child was visited by the Magi from the East, or Three Wise Men. The Baptism of Our Lord is celebrated the following Sunday.

    During the ages of the early Church, there was one celebration for Christ's birth (nativity), acknowledgment as the Divine (visit of the Magi) and the onset of His ministry (Baptism). This was the Theophany celebrated on January 6/7th. Later, the West divided this celebration; Nativity (Dec. 25), Epiphany (Jan. 6 or the proceeding Sunday) and Baptism (Sunday following Epiphany). Today, many Eastern Churches celebrate the Nativity on December 25th and the Theophany or Baptism on January 6th. They do have a feast for the appearance of the Magi. The differences between East and West evolved after the Great Schism of 1054.

  43. Orthodox Russian Church regards Christmas as a holiday second in importance to Easter. Back in the 4th century the celebration rituals were already established. In the 5th century Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, then St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (6th c.), and Cosmas of Maum and John of Damascus (8th c.) composed sacred Christmas chants, which are still used by church to glorify the great event. The Night Service starts with the Grand Compline, when the church expresses its spiritual joy with the prophetical song “Iako s nami bog” (roughly translated as “For God is with us”).

    The Grand Compline from time immemorial included the so-called Tsar Hours, when it was a custom to proclaim long life to the tsar, all the reigning house and all Orthodox Christians.

    During the Hours the church recalls various Old Testament prophecies and events related to Saviour’s Christmas. After midday the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is celebrated, if only compline does not fall on Saturday or Sunday, when Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is served. Before the revolution December 25 was also a civil holiday. This day marked the deliverance of church and state of Russia from the French invasion in 1812. In memory of this event a thanksgiving prayer is sung after the liturgy.

    The believers get ready for proper Christmas celebrations in the course of the Christmas lent that lasts for forty days.

  44. Sochelnik – Cristmas Eve

    In Russia the Christmas Eve is called Sochelnik, or Kolyada. It is the last day of Christmas fast. On Christmas Eve it was a custom not to eat anything before the appearance of the first star in the sky as a symbol of the Bethlehem star, which once showed the Magi to the cradle of the child Jesus. Festive divine service takes place on these hours in churches. Until the evening service the church enjoins strict fasting, whereas people at war ought to be reconciled with each other.

    Sochelnik is considered to be a family dinner. The word Sochelnik comes from sochivo, a sacral lenten dish that was a must for this night. It was made of almond or poppy milk mixed with honey and cereals (wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, pea, and later even rice). Nuts and poppy seeds were added to the festive porridge.

    The other main dishes were kutya made of boiled grains of wheat or barley, and vzvar, of apples, pears, plums, raisins, cherries and other fruits boiled in water. Kutya and vzvar have symbolical meaning: the first is eaten at funeral repast to commemorate the dead, whereas the second one is cooked to celebrate the birth of a child. These two dishes together stood for two remembrances – of the birth of Christ and of his death.

    In the days of old the Christmas table was strewed with hey and then only covered with a tablecloth. Twelve dishes (according to the number of the Apostles) were put in the centre of the table. Apart from sochivo the feast would offer pancakes, fish, fish and meat jelly, young pork with porridge, roast, honey cakes, vzvars, etc., depending on what the family could afford

  45. In spite of the church origin of Christmas, certain pagan festive customs survived in Russia, one of the most popular of them being kolyada, in some ways similar to the Western tradition of going round carol-singing.

    Kolyada symbolized worship of the Sun, which gives joy and fertility; kolyadki songs were about nature phenomena, like moon, sunshine or thunderstorm, and wished good harvest and happy marriages.

    The tradition of Kolyada is also being gradually revived in rural areas: people dress up in costumes and sing special songs at neighbors’ windows. They wish happiness, welfare, and good health. In return they are treated with dainties and greeted with Christmas too.

    Thus, a heroine of an anonymous 18th century comedy “Merrymaking at Christmastide” explains the necessity of Christmas games in such a way: “What for should one knock about the world and lead a wretched life if not have any gaieties in between?”

    Folks would dress up in all possible ways. In noble houses they arrayed themselves as mermaids, Turks, and monks; ladies often dressed up as hussars and young men, on the contrary, as ladies. It was somewhat simpler in countryside – as a rule, lads would go round carol-singing, dressed in sheepskin jackets turned inside out and masks and imitate various animals, such as bears, goats, sheep, etc.

    On January 7 it is also a custom in modern Russia to visit friends and relatives, as well as receive guests, and give presents.

  46. The Adoption of Christianity in Russia

    The first knowledge about the penetration of Christianity into Russia refers to the 1st century AD. In the 9th century Russia adopted Christianity twice: firstly in the year of 957 in the time of Olga and then at the time of Vladimir in 988.
    After Olga being christened, the Christianization of Russia began to develop rapidly. Russia entertained friendly relations with both the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Church; there was also the place for Muslims and Jews. But it was necessary to adopt Christianity for several reasons:
    1. It was necessary in the interests of the development of the state - to avoid isolation from the rest of the world.
    2. Monotheism was the essence of a single state with the monarch at head.
    3. Christianity made family strong and introduced new morals.
    4. Christianity made for the development of culture - philosophy, theological literature.
    5. Social stratification required new ideology (paganism - equality of rights).
    Evidently, Vladimir himself thought of his life full of fratricide and depravity. Christianity could give absolution and purify a soul.

    In chronicles it is said about religious missions of Muslim Volga Bulgaria and Judaic Khazaria. Islam did not gain popularity because it prohibited wine drinking. Catholicism also was not suitable as a service was conducted in Latin and Pope, but not temporal power, was at the head of the Church.
    In the year of 987 Russia entered into relations with Byzantine Empire for christening. Vladimir demanded the sister of the emperor Basil II - princess Anna - to take to wife. As for the Byzantine Empire, it required extra help to struggle against rebels. The emperor agreed to give his sister Anna in marriage to Vladimir, but Vladimir in his turn, had to become christened and put down the rising. A Russian detachment was sent to Byzantium and the rising was put down, but the Greeks were not in a hurry to fulfill the terms of the agreement on marriage. Vladimir gathered an army and in the year of 988 advanced to the center of Byzantine possessions in the Crimea - Chersonese (Korsun). The siege lasted for several months. Once from the walls under siege an arrow with a message was sent to Vladimir's camp. In the message it was said about the necessity of cutting off the water-pipe. The message was written by the priest Anastas.
    Chersonese fell down and Vladimir sent couriers to Constantinople with the demand to give Anna in marriage to him. In his message he promised to become christened. It was here where he was christened as Vasily. After that he returned to Kiev, having taken icons, church plates and clergymen with him.

  47. Christianization of Russia

    A lot of time passed between Vladimir's christening and the Christianization of Russia. In 990 the first attempts to introduce a new faith were taken. It was met with great resistance on the part of the pagans.
    Kiev was the first to become christened. The building of churches began. Un Novgorod Vladimir entrusted the mission to the care of his uncle Dobrynya. But the townsmen destroyed his yard and killed his relatives. Nevertheless the revolt was suppressed. The Byzantine Empire assisted Russia in every way - e.g. in transporting books, which were carefully translated.
    Temporal power was at the head of the Church, but not a clergyman (as Roman Pope).

    The Significance of Christianization of Russia

    It took several centuries to strengthen Christianity, but the influence of paganism did not weakened. So that was the time for two religious beliefs. On the one hand people prayed in church, but on the other hand they went on celebrating pagan holidays. Thus the holiday of Kolyada (carol-singing) merged with Christmas and Shrovetide with Lent.
    1. The Church got lands at its disposal. As for monasteries they adhered to celibacy and withdrawal from all carnal and mundane pleasures. Father Superior was at the head of the monastery. In the course of time monasteries became trade centers and even usury.
    2. Becoming strong from the economic point of view, the Church began playing a great part in the political life. Some archbishops and metropolitans took part in political intrigues, but on the whole they were against intestine strife and for the unity of Russia.
    3. Some schools attached to Church were established. Church arts: icon painting and chronicles writing were flourished greatly.
    4. Moreover, princes started to charge legal proceedings, referring to family and religion, to Church.
    5. Assisting the development of culture and literacy Church suppressed the culture based on paganism, pursuiting merry holidays of Kolyada and Shrovetide as devilish.
    6. Promoting economical, cultural, religious closeness with the Byzantine Empire and other orthodox states, Church was against the Roman Catholic faith, assisting the isolation from the countries of Western Europe and cultural processes, which took place there.

  48. New Year Celebrations
    Although most Russians like to celebrate New Year at private family get-togethers, but large public celebrations are quite common in large cities of the country. Humongous New Year parties organized in Moscow and St. Petersburg are quite lavish affairs attended by hundreds of people and their proceedings are broadcasted throughout the world. Another popular celebratory tradition followed in Russia, to mark this occasion is that various generations in a family sit together and watch New Year shows which are broadcasted once a year on Russian TV networks.

    Mesmerizing and breathtaking firework displays can be seen in various large cities of Russia as the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve. The political brass doesn't remain untouched by the festive mood; in fact, it participates in the festivities wholeheartedly. The Russian President, in Moscow, countdowns the final seconds of the "old year" and the large clock at the Kremlin chimes the arrival of the New Year. In fact, one of the largest traditional celebrations of the New Year's Eve takes place at the Kremlin itself, where more than 50,000 people gather to join in the festivities; the tickets to this annul event sell like hotcakes.

  49. The Russians celebrate this festive occasion as per their famous saying, which goes as "the way you spend New Year's Eve is the way you will spend the rest of the year".

    Much like rest of the contemporary world, Russians also observe New Year's Day on January 1 as per the Gregorian calendar; however, this was not the case always. Earlier, this day was celebrated in the month of September but was abolished by Czar Peter, the Great. In 1699, an official declaration was made announcing January 1st as New Year's Day. It was only after this that the general Russian population began to observe New Year on this day. The New Year celebrations have certain unique features attached to it, as it is celebrated here similar to Christmas celebrated in the Americas. The New Year celebrations revolve around the beautifully decorated Yolka, which is the New Year's tree, and has the same significance as the Christmas tree. This mixture of New Year and Christmas traditions in Russia can be attributed to the fact that after the success of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Bolshevicks completely banned the celebration of all religious holidays. Therefore to compensate for this, the Russians started celebrating New Year as somewhat secular Christmas.

  50. In many Russophone communities OLIVIER SALAD has become one of the main courses served during New Year celebrations. The original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by Belgian Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow's most celebrated restaurants. Olivier's salad quickly became immensely popular with Hermitage regulars, and became the restaurant's signature dish. The exact recipe — particularly that of the dressing — was a jealously guarded secret, but it is known that the salad contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, and smoked duck, although it is possible that the recipe was varied seasonally. One of the first printed recipes for Olivier salad, by Aleksandrova, appearing in 1894, called for half a hazel grouse, two potatoes, one small cucumber (or a large cornichon), 3-4 lettuce leaves, 3 large crawfish tails, 1/4 cup cubed aspic, 1 teaspoon of capers, 3–5 olives, and 11⁄2 tablespoon Provençal dressing (mayonnaise). As often happens with gourmet recipes which become popular, the ingredients that were rare, expensive, seasonal, or difficult to prepare were gradually replaced with cheaper and more readily available foods.

  51. How to celebrate Russian Christmas?


    1. Work up an appetite. In the Eastern Orthodox faith, it's customary to fast on Christmas Eve Day (January 6), then gather together for a big meal when the first star is sighted in the sky (or, if it's cloudy out, after the sunset). Just like the western variety, Russian Christmas--also known as the Feast of Saint Nicholas--is a joyous time for family and friends, so be sure to invite all the usual people.

    2. Make a big bowl of kutya. Because of the holiday's association with Lent, meat is forbidden during Russian Christmas. Instead, it's traditional to serve kutya, a vegetarian porridge consisting of various types of wheat and grain sweetened with honey, along with such side dishes as fresh fruit, beans, and potatoes. (One tradition you may want to discourage involves tossing a spoonful of kutya at the ceiling: if the porridge sticks, that's a good omen for the future.)

    3. Observe the pre-meal rituals. If you're planning to go strictly by the book, the Feast of Saint Nicholas involves a host of Eastern Orthodox traditions, ranging from a traditional greeting and response ("Christ is born?" "Glorify him!") to the painting of honey crosses on the assembled guests' foreheads. (During the meal, honey and garlic are symbolic of the sweetness and sorrow of life-which is uncannily similar to a Passover Seder).

    4. Go to church. In Russia, the big Christmas service is conducted not on Christmas morning, but on Christmas Eve-and it lasts until 2 or 3 in the morning. Since you may or may not have a Russian Orthodox church anywhere nearby, it's okay to sit in your living room instead, singing traditional songs and opening presents.

    5. Gather around the yolka. No, it's not a giant egg yolk-a "yolka" is actually the Russian version of a Christmas tree, introduced to the country in the 17th century by the ever-westernizing Peter the Great. Because ornaments were too expensive for most peasant families, the yolka is traditionally decorated with homespun decorations and the occasional piece of fruit =)

  52. Christmas and all other religious holidays were outlawed in Russia by the Communist regime following the 1917 revolution. Anyone who dared to celebrate Christmas or display any symbol of the holiday was subject to fines or imprisonment. For many years children in the Soviet Union were without a holiday to celebrate – until a curious thing happened in 1935.

    Joseph Stalin with daughter Svetlana in 1935

    The British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Aretas Akers-Douglas, not only held a Christmas celebration at the British embassy in Moscow that year, but he invited Premier Stalin to attend. Stalin, of course, could not attend a Christmas celebration, but for some reason he allowed his children, Vasili and Svetlana, to go. After witnessing how happy his children were after attending the Christmas party, Stalin devised a plan to create a celebration that would make children and their parents happy, thereby creating support for the regime.

    In a weekly government radio address a few days after the ambassador’s party, it was announced that Comrade Stalin had declared a celebration to be held to commemorate the progress the country was making on its economic plans. In addition, Stalin wanted to bring this celebration into the home of all Russians, so he mandated that by the first of January, every family would have a live New Year’s tree to celebrate the achievements of the Soviet Union.

    After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many Russians began to celebrate Christmas again (the Russian Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar, so Christmas is celebrated on January 7th in Russia), but it is strictly a religious celebration since presents, trees, and other secular elements of the holiday remain part of the New Year’s celebration.

    In addition to the New Year’s tree, several other traditions were added to the celebration. Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost brings children gifts on New Year’s Day, and the Winter Festival, a tradition instituted by the Soviet Government, is still celebrated in Moscow today.

  53. Russian folklore warned that magical spirits and forces waxed powerful during the Christmas season. The Russian people, therefore, developed numerous folk charms to protect their homes, farms, and families from evil spirits or misfortunes. They also searched nature for omens of things to come. Folk tradition suggested that Christmas weather could predict the next year’s agricultural prospects. Starry skies meant one could expect a plentiful pea harvest, for example.

    A lot of folkloric rituals have reappeared in the celebration but of course they are done just for entertainment nowadays. Among them is door-to-door singing of Russian carols which are also known as ‘ kolyadki’. Carolers worked their way through neighborhoods expecting to be given cookies or other sweets in return for their musical entertainment. Another great Russian Christmas tradition which is often seen along with the carol singing is known as ‘ mumming’ where people would dress up as clowns, animals and beggars and in various colorful costumes.

    Also many young women work fortune-telling charms that were popular among their great grand mothers. Many different spells existed that time. One encouraged young ladies to throw a boot of theirs into the street on Christmas Eve. The first young man to find the boot would be their future husband. Another custom suggested that unmarried women light a candle in front of a mirror at midnight on Christmas Eve. This charm was supposed to cause the face of their future husband to appear in the mirror.

  54. Christmas Feast
    Russian Christmas feast is very special because of the number of dishes. It is a 12 course dinner with one course each for 12 apostles. The menu includes fish, beet soup, stuffed cabbage, dry fruits and other delicacies. Members of the family gather around the table and pay reverence to the son of God. The tablecloth used is traditionally white and symbolizes the swaddling cloth of infant Jesus and also the poverty of the place where he is believed to have taken birth. A candle placed at the middle of the table symbolizes that "Christ is the light of the world". Special lantern bread called "pagach" is also placed on the table symbolizing that "Christ is the bread of life".

  55. Christmas Decorations
    People decorate their houses and gardens with lights and Christmas ornaments. Christmas trees are called "Yelka" which are also nicely decorated with ornaments, flowers and lights. Hymns and carols form an inevitable part of Russian Christmas celebrations and the trees are taken down on the day of Baptism.

  56. Christmas Games: Find the Nutcracker

  57. Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It's a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration. After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn't until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it's once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints.

    Christmas is one of the most joyous traditions for the celebration of Eve comes from the Russian tradition. On the Eve of Christmas, it is traditional for all family members to gather to share a special meal. The various foods and customs surrounding this meal differed in Holy Russia from village to village and from family to family, but certain aspects remained the same.

    An old Russian tradition, whose roots are in the Orthodox faith, is the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The fast, typically, lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is very much a celebration, although, meat is not permitted. Kutya, a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.

  58. Kulibiaki Pastry dishes play an important part in Russian cooking. They include pelmeni, blini, noodles and many others. But pies and tarts are the pride and joy of any Russian housewife. 'A home is made by pies, not by walls,' 'A birthday is not a birthday without pies,' 'Arrows complete a quiver, and pies a dinner'—these Russian sayings bear witness to the long-standing popularity of pies. You don't see them on the table every day, but when you do, it means that there is something to celebrate and that guests are expected. You can see all kinds of pies on the table: open tarts and covered pies, pies made from yeast dough, unleav-ened dough and puff pastry, large ones and small ones, round ones and square ones, made with meat, fish, cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, berries, curd cheese and jam.... But a pie that has been popular for centuries is one called kulebyaka.

    Here is the recipe for it. Dissolve 10-15 grammes of yeast in 50 grammes of warm water or milk, strain through a small sieve and add liquid to make up 150 grammes. Add 400 grammes of flour and knead the mixture. When you have nearly finished kneading the dough, add 50 grammes of butter, two egg yolks and a little sunflower oil. Put the dough in a warm place to rise. Then roll it out, place the filling in the centre, raise the edges or the dough and join them together by pinching. Decorate the kulebyaka with strips of the dough, placing them at intervals across it. Brush the kulebyaka with egg yolk mixed with water, place it carefully on a baking tray and bake in the oven. Kulebyaka is usually made with a meat or cabbage filling, but sometimes there are two or three layers of different fillings; for example, a layer of boiled rice, then a layer of meat filling and on top a layer of hard-boiled eggs, cut into rings. To make a meat filling, mince 800 grammes of boiled meat. Saute some finely chopped onions in a frying pan, add the meat and fry for a further 3-5 minutes. Add three chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1-2 tablespoon-fuls of sunflower oil, salt, pepper and dill to taste.For a cabbage filling, wash and shred a cabbage (1.5-2 kilogrammes), scald with boiling water, drain and rinse in cold water, put the cabbage in a saucepan with 80-100 grammes of melted butter, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly and pouring off the liquid. Then add some chopped hard-boiled eggs and salt.

  59. Sturgeon Sturgeon has graced Russian tables since ancient times. Sturgeon in aspic and smoked sturgeon make marvellous hors d'oeuvres with a fine and delicate taste. The famous black caviare, in its soft and pressed varieties, comes from sturgeon and related species. The belly of sturgeon (smoked or dry-cured) is known in Russia as tyosha. Sturgeon is used to make fish soup and fish solyanka; it is eaten boiled, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, roasted in pastry or on a spit. But various baked dishes have always been the pride of Russian cookery, and this is especially true of baked sturgeon. Russians are fond of saying that appetite comes with eating. Even if you are not hungry, you will realise how true this saying is when you try baked sturgeon.

    Clean and wash the sturgeon and cut into pieces. Salt and pepper it, coat it in flour and fry it gently with some butter. Gently fry 200 grammes of fresh ceps, field mushrooms or button mushrooms, as well as one onion, cut into rings. Put the fish in a large baking dish, and surround with circles of fried potato, the mushrooms and onion and pour over a strained sour cream sauce. For the sauce, heat the sour cream, and when it is boiling, add a teaspoonful of flour mixed with the same amount of butter, stir it well, simmer for 1-2 minutes and season with salt. Sprinkle the fish, covered with the sauce, with grated cheese, pour over some melted butter and bake in a preheated hot oven for 10 minutes. To serve, garnish with finely chopped parsley.

  60. In the traditional Russian Christmas, special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for 39 days, until January 6th Christmas Eve, when the first evening star in appears in the sky. Then begins a twelve course supper in honor of each of the twelve apostles - fish, beet soup (Borsch), cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more.

    Hay is spread on the floors and tables to encourage horse feed to grow in the coming year and people make clucking noises to encourage their hens to lay eggs.

    On Christmas Day, hymns and carols are sung. People gather in churches which have been decorated with the usual Christmas trees (Yelka), flowers and colored lights. Christmas dinner includes a variety of different meats - goose and suckling pig are favorites.

    The legend of Father Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, arose in the cities. It was said that Father Frost lived deep in the woods of Russia and came to town in a sleigh. Unlike his Western counterpart, he did not come down the chimney (the houses in Russian cities had no fireplaces). However, he did make house calls-delivering toys and gifts door-to-door.

    Father Frost had a reputation for bringing gifts to good children and forgetting those who were naughty. He could be both jolly and cold hearted. During the Christmas season, he would roam the streets, handing out toys to well-behaved children-and overlooking those who behaved badly.

    Traditionally, Father Frost wore a red coat and hat trimmed in white fur. Sometimes his outfit made him more like a wizard than the Santa Claus known in Europe. But like Santa's, his beard was snow-white, bushy, and long. Some children opened their gifts on Christmas Eve, but others were told that Father Frost wouldn't come until they were fast asleep, and they would find their gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. Russian children look forward to the arrival of Father Frost every bit as much as Western children look forward to a visit from Santa Claus today.

    The Christmas tree (Iolka) is yet another tradition banned during the Soviet era. To keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year's trees, instead. Iolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. But in Saratov people usually bought pine tree as they are more common here. The custom of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great, after he visited Europe during the 1700's.

  61. Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! (Irony of Fate) – as unavoidable as the Christmas Story in the US, this wonderful Soviet romantic comedy has been a workhorse of New Year’s programming ever since it came out in 1975. In the rare years that it is not played on New Year’s night, it is played a day or two before or after the New Year. Some other traditional New Year movies include Джентельмены удачи (Gentlemen of Fortune), Иван Васильевич меняет профессию (Ivan Vasilyevich: Back to the Future) and Карнавальная ночь (Carnival Night), all available on the Mosfilm’s YouTube channel.

  62. For many Russians, a return to religion represents a return to their old roots and their old culture. Throughout Russia, after Christmas Eve services, people carrying candles, torches, and homemade lanterns parade around the church, just as their grandparents and great-grandparents did long ago. After the procession completes its circle around the church, the congregation reenters and they sing several carols and hymns before going home for a late Christmas Eve dinner.

  63. Christmas traditions are quite young in Russia, especially where children's parties are concerned. Until the mid-1840s, Christmas remained a strictly religious holiday and children received no special treatment: no gifts, no Santa Claus or a Christmas tree, just a many hours-long church service and a hearty meal to mark the end of the forty-days Christmas fast, followed by games like tobogganing and snowball fights.

    In the mid-1840s, however, children's Christmas parties became popular in middle-class and upper-class Russia literally overnight, and remained so until the First World War of 1914. It was then that the main Christmas traditions developed and, with minor changes, they remain unchanged until today. Father Christmas made his first appearance in 1910.

  64. As this holiday is defined as a nonreligious celebration, many non-Christian people still celebrate the holiday. As an example, in the Jewish parts of Israel with high number of ex-USSR immigrants a person might find lots of Novi God merchandise. In Israel there is a major conflict for those who celebrate the Novy-God (non-Christian): it is so common that a person could find newspapers explaining that immigrants are not celebrating the Christian new year,[5] to find anti-Novy God flyers, and almost every year a person would find anti-Novy God chain letters,[6] a bill that bans Santa and tree for showing in public places.

  65. The Christmas Tree Party for Kids in the 19th Century

    As children's Christmas and New Year parties took place around the Christmas tree, they received the names of "tree parties", or "tree matinees". They were big occasions, often with musicians or actors to impersonate Father Frost and other fairy-tale characters. Only very rich families could afford to hire them, though, as well as to buy posh decorations and expensive gifts, so most middle-class families spent hours during long winter evenings sewing, embroidering, gluing and painting various mementos for everyone on their guest list.

    One lovely tradition included wrapping each gift into many layers of colored gift paper, each layer with a different child's name on it. During the Christmas party, the child whose name was on the top layer would remove the first layer of gift paper, discover another child's name on the next layer and hand the gift over to him, who in turn would remove the next layer, find another child's name and pass it over... until the very last layer of gift paper revealed the name of the child the gift was meant for.

    Children's tree parties were banned in 1914 with the start of the First World War. Immediately afterwards, the Socialist Revolution of 1917 announced all religious holidays "obsolete", including children's tree parties. Although not banned outright yet, they were unpopular -- as we'd say today, "uncool". Finally, in 1926 Joseph Stalin started an aggressive anti-religious campaign that prohibited all religious ceremonies and celebrations.

    Children's tree parties came back in 1935, only this time they were held not on the banned day of Christmas, but on New Year's day. Father Christmas was back with a vengeance: tree matinees were held in every school, kindergarten, theater and children's club. It was then that the basic scenario for a tree party evolved, and it remains the same until today.

  66. How to Plan a Russian Christmas or New Year Party for Kids -- the Tree Party

    The party starts with all the children gathering around the Christmas (New Year) tree while an adult plays an instrument (usually the piano) inviting all children to sing and dance around the tree. The lights on the tree are out at this point. The gifts are either hidden under the tree so that the kids can't see them, or they are placed beforehand in Father Frost's bag.

    After a few rounds of songs and games the adult mentions that Father Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka seem to be late: little wonder as they have so many cities to visit and so many gifts to give! The kids are invited to call for Father Frost three times.

    After the third call, Snegurochka appears alone and tells the children that her granddad is going to be late (alternatively, that he is kidnapped by some nasty fairy-tale characters, etc. -- the details depend on the script writer's ingenuity). And if he doesn't touch the tree with his magic staff, the lights won't come on and the New Year won't come! The kids play some more with Snegurochka, predictably worried about the fate of the tree and their gifts.

    Finally, Father Frost appears with a suitable explanation of his absence. He touches the tree with his magic staff, and it lights up, after which more fun and games follow, winners being awarded with little goodies from Father Frost's bag.

    It's quite common for children to come to a tree party in fancy dress, in which case Father Frost and Snegurochka choose the best costume (or several, if the party is big) and reward the children wearing them. Finally, children receive their gifts -- either from Father Frost's bag or by looking for them under the tree.

    At a smaller party with no Father Frost or Snegurochka, children enjoy various games, songs and dance followed by a festive meal. In any case, the adults go to great lengths to preserve the atmosphere of magic culminating in the discovering of the gifts "left by Father Frost".