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