"" Writer's Wanderings: It's Christmas Time in Russia

Thursday, January 06, 2011

It's Christmas Time in Russia

The church in Russia still uses the Julian calendar which places Christmas 13 days after the date on the Gregorian calendar used by most of the world. So tonight is Christmas Eve. For the most part the festival of Christmas is being replaced by the Festival of Winter but with the easing of restrictions on the churches, some have returned to the traditional celebrations.

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. (These are also the people who stand for an hour or more in a church sevice. When we toured a church in St. Petersburg, we were told they don't have pews or chairs because they stand.) Then begins a twelve course supper in honor of each of the twelve apostles. Dinner includes fish, beet soup or Borsch, cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more.

On Christmas Day, hymns and carols are sung. People gather in churches which have been decorated with Christmas trees or Yelka, flowers and colored lights. Christmas dinner is a variety of different meats, among them goose and suckling pig.

Babushka was a term I learned as a child but it was taught as a triangular scarf draped over the head and tied under the chin. I guess it's because it made you look like a grandma which is what the term means in Russian. Babushka is the traditional Christmas figure who gives presents to children. The legend is that she declined to accompany the wise men to see Jesus because of the cold weather. Later, she regretted not going and set off to try and catch up. Along the way she filled her basket with presents. She never found Jesus but now she visits each house and leaves toys for good children. (A children's book, Babushka, is available at Amazon and tells the story.)

с Рождеством Христовым ! (If Babel Fish is right, that's Merry Christmas!)

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