Happy New Year, everyone! It’s Orthodox Christmas here in Russia. The stores are closed, families are gathered together, and it’s -22 degrees Fahrenheit! But no need for alarm, all is well here in Moscow. I still have a job, despite the “fake” news reports of last week. To everyone who reached out, I really appreciate your concern. Teaching abroad comes with many ups and some downs and this past week certainly proved an interesting blip on the radar.
No need to dwell, I thought I would share what I’ve learned about Russian Orthodox Christmas on this day of celebration…
- The holiday is celebrated on January 7 (December 25 on the Julian calendar).
- The holiday marks the end of 40 days of fasting by observant Orthodox Christians (no meat, no dairy, no alcohol). This diet is known as the Nativity Fast.
- Since Soviet times, the holiday has split with gift giving celebrated on New Year’s Eve and the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrated beginning January 7 (the true focus of the religious aspect of the holiday).
- A huge 12-course meal (to honor the 12 apostles) is served after the first star appears in the night sky. Food associated with the holiday includes that which remembers the ancestors – blini (pancakes) and kutia are must-haves.
- Father Frost (Ded Moroz) is the Orthodox answer to Santa Claus. Unlike Santa, Father Frost delivers gifts directly to children on New Year’s Eve with the help of his granddaughter, Snegurochka (snow maiden). Though the connection to Christmas trees was lost during Soviet times, trees are once again connected with this night of gift giving.
- There is a fortune-telling aspect to the holiday, with the Twelve Days of Christmas considered to be prime time for predicting the future, particularly big life events (marriages, births, etc.). The practice may use mirrors, shadows, and burning bits of thread.
- For Russian Orthodox Christians, Easter is actually the larger holiday to celebrate. More info to come this spring…
Happy New Year to you all! May cooler heads and wisdom prevail in 2017. Wishing you health and happiness wherever this note may find you.