The Russian Orthodox church is one of the world’s largest Christian denominations. Christmas is observed annually on January 7 in Russian and other Eastern Orthodox countries.
Christmas in Russia is a significant holiday, and many people observe church services on this day. Some even fast for it!
Christmas Eve is a truly joyous occasion for Russians. They celebrate it with traditions and memories that are unique to Russia and its people, creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve typically commences with a lengthy church service that includes the Royal Hours and Vespers as well as the Divine Liturgy.
Following the procession, devotees are treated to a traditional Holy Supper consisting of 12 dishes for each apostle. Following that, devout families attend both the All Night Vigil and Christmas Morning Divine Liturgy.
The Russian Orthodox Church observes a strict fasting period that lasts 40 days prior to Christmas Eve. On this auspicious night, believers break their fast when the first star appears – signifying Christ’s birth – on Christmas Eve.
At Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill is expected to officiate the Christmas service. President Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will also be present for these solemn rituals.
Christmas Day is the Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus Christ’s birth. It is one of the main Christian feast days and observed by Orthodox Christians around the world.
On this special day, Russians gather for a large feast and celebration of family. Unlike Western cultures where gifts are exchanged, Russians prioritize spending quality time together while having fun.
On Christmas Eve, people typically fast for several hours until the first star appears in the sky (this symbolizes Jesus’ birth). After their fast is broken, they enjoy a large family dinner of various dishes.
The meal typically consists of 12 courses to symbolize the 12 apostles. After this, there are various fruit pies and gingerbread cookies for dessert. Some families opt for a vegetarian version of the dinner as well.
New Year’s Eve
Though most Christians around the world celebrate Christmas on December 25th, many Orthodox Christians opt to observe it on January 7th. This is because the Russian Orthodox Church still adheres to Julius Caesar’s Julian calendar which dates back to 45 BC.
However, Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar in 1582 and it has become widely adopted throughout Western culture. This solar dating system brought the Julian calendar more in line with modern life by reforming it with solar dates.
On New Year’s Eve in Russia, people usually visit their families and spend quality time with them. Instead of organizing loud parties, they simply enjoy a cozy dinner together and exchange gifts.
New Year’s Day
In Russia, Christmas is observed on January 7 according to the Julian calendar that the Russian Orthodox Church still follows. However, most other countries follow the Gregorian calendar now.
In ancient times, the New Year was celebrated in March. However, this date was eventually moved to September 1 by the 15th century as a pagan holiday symbolizing the start of spring and the end of long winter days.
As part of their festive traditions, Russians observe many Western-inspired customs. These include decorating an iolka tree with gifts from Santa Claus.
Another traditional custom is a 40-day Lenten period before Christmas that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with the first star appearing in the night sky on January 6. In some regions of Russia, people also fast from meat during this period.
In Russia, food plays a prominent role in Christmas celebrations. A popular dish is Kutya – an aromatic porridge made with wheat and fruit and sprinkled with poppy seeds. In some regions, people throw this food to the ceiling to bring good luck.