Wednesday, 7 January 2009

S Rozhdestvom!

Or, in English, Merry Christmas to all our Russian readers!

Yes, today - thirteen days after the Western Christmas Day - on 7 January, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It's a day of both solemn ritual as well as joyous celebration.

After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn't until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it's once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints.

An old Russian tradition, which has its roots in the Orthodox faith, is the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The fast typically lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is very much a celebration, although meat is not permitted. Kutya, a type of porridge, is the main dish and full of symbolism - its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.

So, if you're celebrating the Russian Orthodox Christmas today - S Rozhdestvom and S Novym Godom!

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