Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas in January?!

Believe it or not in Russia Christmas is not celebrated on December 25th, but rather on January 7th! It wasn’t always this way; prior to the 1917 Revolution Christmas was celebrated on the 25th and similar to the United States it was a holiday complete with Christmas trees and gifts. After the Revolution, Christmas, along with other religious celebrations, were band throughout Russia. It wasn’t until about 75 years later, in 1992, that thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church the holiday was again openly observed. However, this time it would be celebrated on January 7th because the Russian Church uses the old Julian calendar which is thirteen days behind the Gregorian calendar which we use. Either way no matter what day it’s celebrated it’s a good thing Russia got their Christmas back!

Christmas nowadays is a huge holiday in Russia with many traditions and customs. As far as Santa goes, Russians refer to him as St. Nicholas who is very popular.  Legend has it that 11th century Prince Vladimir returned home from a trip to Constantinople to be baptized and told stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas. During the communist years in Russia St. Nicholas was transformed into Grandfather Frost. Another common tradition in Russian, one which people around the world are probably familiar with, is the Babouscka. Little children in Russian wait up at night to try and catch a peek at Baouscka as she runs by. She is a really old and poor lady who, as legend has it, did not offer food to the Magi during the search for the Christ Child. So to this day she still wonders around looking for baby Jesus. But, on Christmas on Christmas Eve she stops by the houses of children and leaves them small gifts.

Lastly, no Christmas would be complete without a tree. The Christmas tree, or Yolka, was sadly also banned during the Soviet era. To get around this though, people decorated New Year’s trees instead! Yolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. It was introduced to the Russians by the famous Peter the Great after visiting Europe. He taught Russia the custom of decorating a tree. It has once again
been brought back as a Christmas tradition these days.

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