When and how do people celebrate Christmas in Russia?
Sometimes “Enjoy Russian” school students who come to learn Russian in Petrozavodsk during winter time (December and January in particular) associate Christmas in Russia with the 25th of December. Catholic world does celebrate Christmas on this day, but not the Orthodox communities. At least, not all of them. To understand the reason dates differ from country to country one should get an insight into the history.
Why Christmas date is different around the world
The reason for this 13-days-difference is hidden in the calendars people use. Starting with the year 1582 many countries around the globe switched to Gregorian calendar from the Julian one. According to some statistics, the process took almost 300 years. And when it finally came to Russia the Orthodox Church did not approve shifting to this new-made year calculating system and remained stick to the Julian calendar.
As a result, in modern world we have Catholic communities using Gregorian calendar, some Orthodox communities living with renewed Julian calendar (which nowadays coincides with Gregorian one and Christmas in these countries is celebrated on 24-25th December) and countries living with Julian calendar like Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Montenegro, Belarus, Egypt that celebrate Christmas on 6-7th of January.
What do Russians do on Christmas day?
- At all times people in Russia were preparing themselves to Christmas day very carefully. From November 28 till January 6 the religious are fasting and mentally purifying themselves. On this holiday people cook traditional Christmas food but do not start dinner ceremony before participating in a night church service (usually starts at midnight). Making a wish on this night is also a common tradition.
- On the next day, the front doors of all houses were open to everybody: people congratulate each other with the great day and invite even strangers to drop by.
- And after that the 12-day holiday season starts. Through to the Epiphany Day (January 19) people go sledding, join open-air celebrations, play musical instruments at the streets. An integral part of the Russian Christmas celebration is called «колядки». People dress up in a fancy way, come to random houses and sing short humorous songs. The men of the house usually give some sweets to unexpected guests.
- Even though Russians do not celebrate Christmas in a grand-scale manner as they do on New Year’s Eve, they find it very enjoyable and delightful.
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