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The Russian Orthodox Church Christmas

Don't forget that the Russian Orthodox Christmas falls after the Western Christmas and is celebrated on the 7th January (the night from 6 to 7 the January in fact).

The Russian Orthodox Church still uses the old Julian calendar; therefore Christmas celebration falls on January 7th, 13 days behind the West. This was initially a religious holiday before which people were supposed to fast for 6 weeks (Christmas fast).

After the 1917 Revolution in Russia when the Soviets took over, Christmas was banned throughout the country, along with other religious celebrations. Even the main features of the holiday were forbidden. Christmas tree (Yolka) was banned until 1935 up to the moment when Stalin said that that decorating a tree was a good tradition and it would be worth recalling it. Since that time Yolka became more of a New Year than Christmas symbol.

The holidays themselves, namely Christmas and New Year's experienced a similar change. Before 1918 Christmas was celebrated everywhere, however the New Years was a less meaningful holiday. After the Soviet rule had been established in Russia the holidays changed their places. The USSR appeared to be the only country in the world where New Year's inherited the features of Christmas, but still remained non-religious holiday.

After the collapse of the USSR, the change back did not occur and since then Christmas was celebrated in tradition by Orthodox believers mainly. However in 1991 Boris Eltsin made 7 January a day off in Russia and later on it happened in Ukraine and Belarus.

Nowadays the Russian Orthodox Christmas is a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration. It's again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participation in the all-night Mass in Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints, not only in Russia but in Ukraine and Belarus and some other ex-USSR countries.

The tradition of masquerading and going from house to house to sing kolyadki (carols) gets a new lease of life. In return to the songs, the hosts are supposed to offer singers food and coins before they leave for another home. Nowadays mainly children go to sing kolyadki for fun (and reward).

Another Orthodox Christmas custom is a fortune-telling, which is very popular now especially among young unmarried Russian women. They follow the tradition great grand-grand-mothers did in Russia. For example a Russian girl throws her shoe out in the street and then goes to search for it; if a man picks the shoe up this indicates she will get married this year and her husband's name will be the same as this man has.

The most important meal during Russian Christmas dinner is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of berries, wheat or other grains that symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds that ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.

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