Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Christmas in Russia

A friend from St Petersburg sent me this description of Christmas in Russia, in answer to questions posed by friends of his daughter, who is spending a year in Atlanta:

-Do Russians celebrate Christmas, and if so, what are some things they do during their holiday celebrations?
Russians widely celebrate New Year Eve which is on night from 12/31 onto 01/01. Due to 70 years of Communist ideology in the USSR, in Russian civil society an atheism was cultivated. And the New Year Holiday was presented as more important than X-mas. So even now only let’s say 40% of population celebrate X-mas. Moreover only 10% really go to the Church this day. The most people just have a family meeting near the table, without presenting souvenirs to each other and congratulations. X-mas party is more like a just family party on some unimportant local holiday. 

So may say that Russians have a New Year Eve as an analogue of Western X-mas and let me tell you more and in detail how we, Russians, celebrate this Holiday: 

this night the whole country (99%) does not sleep till 2-4 am, 
people count 12 bell beats of Kremlin Red Square Big Clock, 

all people exchange souvenirs and presents under “X-mas Tree (really New-Year Tree)”, 

drink Champaign, etc. They are doing a lot what people in the USA are doing in X-mas, 12/25.

Another point you need to know is that Russians if celebrate X-mas BUT NOT 12/25. You might know that various nations have different types of calendar. For instance, if in the USA now it is 2018 year, but Muslims considered it is 1435, Jewish Orthodox people consider it is 5778. Russian Church orthodox clergymen consider 2018 year but they have a calendar which is 13 days late. It means that when the whole World lives let’s say in 20 of February, on Russian Church Calendar is only February, 7. It is very long story why it happened in 1582 AC, just believe my explanations.
Below there is a typical Russian postcard dedicated to Russian X-mas.pastedGraphic_4.png

… and people in national costumes sing folk songs in the street on the next day of X-mas.
-How do Russians say "Merry Christmas" in their language?

They say СЧАСТЛИВОГО РОЖДЕСТВА {sounds like schastlivogo rozhdestva}  what means HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

-Is there a Russian equivalent of the American Santa Claus? Or is there some other Christmas character(s)?
Russians have 2 main characters in New Year (as I told you before, we can consider Russian New Year Eve as Western X-mas). We have: DED MOROZ (Grandfather Frost) and his grand-daughter – SNEGUROCHKA (Snow Maiden)


They do not drive elms, they move on Russian national three-horse sleigh and bring children presents in a big sack.

For small children (3-6 years old) some parents may order special artists who play roles of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka. (The cost is around $50-100 per visit, depending on date, the closer to 12/31 the more expensive). By tradition, a kid should stand up on a chair or a stool and tell a short poem.

But in the most families a Father plays role of Ded Moroz. He dresses in a red costume, ties a beard made of cotton, takes a stick like a pikestaff and speaks with his kid with a special bass voice. The typical question usually is: “Did you behave well this year, little boy/girls? Did you obey Mom and Dad?” All kids, of course, reply “Yes” on both questions and receive gifts.
Usually Russian kids believe in existence of Ded Moroz and that he brings presents personally or puts them under tree till 8 years old.

-What is the weather like in Russia at Christmas time?
Russia is very big and there are a lot of climate types on its territory. But if we talk about historical heard of Russia (say 500 km around Moscow) and Siberia then we say:
Moscow – used to be minus 10 Celsius (15F), now sometimes because of global warming it might be even around 0C (30F) 
Siberia – used to be -25C (-15F) but now it might be also around -10C (15F).
It is snowy, mild snowflake slowly are falling down… Something like that:

-What are the gift-giving traditions at Christmastime in Russia?
I suppose the tradition is very similar to American one: children in advance write letter to:
  • American – to Santa Clause
  • Russians – to Ded Moroz


Kids ask for new bicycle, X-box, a doll, a smart-phone, LEGO construction set, etc, etc, etc. Kids are waiting Ded Moroz puts presents under X-mas/New-Year Tree. But despite their big attention to the Tree, presents appear right in a moment when they go out to toilet or after being sent to a kitchen to help Mom to bring a cake. A miracle always happens when they are absent these 3-5 minutes…


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