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Christmas in Russia: Click here to go back

The main religion in Russia is called Russian Orthodox. The Russian people believe in Jesus Christ and Mary, his mother. The Russian Orthodox Church is more than one thousand
years old. According to tradition, St. Andrew the First Called, while preaching the gospel, stopped at the Kievan hills to bless the future city of Kiev. The fact that Russia had among her neighbors a powerful Christian state, the Byzantine Empire, very much contributed to the spread of Christianity in it.

Majestic churches began to be built in the 10th century. Monasteries began to develop in the 11th century. St. Anthony of the Caves brought the traditions of Athonian monasticism to Russia in 1051. He founded the famous Monastery of the Caves in Kiev which was to become the center of religious life in Old Russia. Monasteries played a tremendous role in Russia. The greatest service they did to the Russian people, apart from their purely spiritual work, was that they were major centers of education. In particular, monasteries recorded in their chronicles all the major historical events in the life of the Russian people. Flourishing in monasteries were icon-painting and literary art. They were also those who translated into Russian various theological, historical and literary works. 

St. Nicholas is especially popular in Russia. The legend is that the 11th-century Prince Vladimir travelled to Constantinople to be baptised, 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.

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.

The types of food eaten usually depends on the wealth of the families. The main foods eaten are hot roast Pirog Ė Russian pies which is made out of meat or cabbage, and another food eaten is pelmeni Ė meat dumplings.

A few weeks before Christmas many people donít eat meat, eggs or milk and the day before Christmas they hardy eat anything at all. The Christmas tree is also put up on Christmas Eve when the children go to bed.

Songs and carols
Children go from house to house on the first day of Christmas carrying a star and singing carols and get sweets from adults.

The weather is always very cold and snowy. Temperature is always in minus degrees. This is called a white Christmas.

Boxing Day
Boxing Day is not celebrated in Russia

Date of Christmas
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.

This depends on the wealth of the families they have the same sort of decorations as us but some people make their own.

Games and sports
Anything to do with snow skiing or ice-skating is a popular past time.

Usually people donít go on holidays in winter. They would prefer to go in summer time when it is a bit warmer.

Type of celebrations
Families get together and have a party, exchange presents.

Dance and Music
Similar to the rest of the world but there are special dances like the Russian Kazachok and the Russian Polka. The accordion is also played with lots of singing. The people also drink a lot of vodka.

The presents depend on the wealth of the families.

Past time
Similar as today but it depends on the wealth of the people.

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