Now for a limited time: FREE GIFT to New Subscribers!       
July/Aug 2015 Current Moscow Time: 19:16:26
28 July 2015


  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Christmastide Tradition

by Linda DeLaine

December 6th marks the Feast Day of St. Nicholas of Myra; a Turkish bishop who became the patron saint of Moscow and Santa to the world. Due to the suppression of religion during the Soviet regime, St. Nicholas was replaced by Dyed Moroz or Grandfather Frost, the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts on New Year's. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, the Snowmaiden, who helps distribute the gifts.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia had adopted the custom of celebrating Christmas on December 25th. However, the Orthodox Church Christmas is on January 7th. This is, also, an official national holiday.

Another cherished Christmas tradition, prior to the Soviet era, was the endearing character known as Babouschka. According to folklore, Babouschka did not offer food and shelter to the Magi during their search for the Christ Child. To this day, she wanders the countryside in search of the Baby Jesus. Along the way, she visits homes where children live, leaving them gifts at Christmas time. Babouschka, a character similar to the Italian Befana, has returned as a continued favorite of the Russian Christmas traditions.

The Christmas tree (Yolka) is yet another tradition banned during the Soviet era.To keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year's trees, instead. Since ornaments were either very costly or unavailable, family trees were trimmed with homemade decorations and fruit. Yolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. The custom of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great, after he visited Europe during the 1700's.

An old Russian tradition, whose roots are 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 (kutia), a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.

A house blessing is customary at this time. The priest sprinkles a bit of holy water in each room of the home, praying that the abode and all who live there have a safe and happy year. After the blessing, the kutya is shared from a common bowl to symbolize unity. After the Christmas Eve meal, a great deal of merriment commences. Music, singing, dancing, games and a visit from the mummers are a part of the fun.

Nesselrode Pudding
Chestnuts, candied cherries, almonds and a touch of rum! The recipe for a Russian Christmas tradition is here.

Prianiki for the Holidays
Brief history of Russian prianiki (gingerbread) and a traditional recipe to enjoy during the holidays or anytime throughout the year

S Rozhdestvom Khristovym !

 

July 25, 2015
I'm Vysotsky: The Legend of Russian Songwriting
I'm Vysotsky: The Legend of Russian Songwriting
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Everyone in the Soviet Union knew his songs, despite constant censorship and troubles with the Soviet regime. To this day, any Russian will recognize his raspy singing voice and silly falsetto. But what was the great Vladimir Vysotsky like in person?

Read More
Tags: music, soviet union, vladimir vysotsky, bards
July 13, 2015
Join Us. Get a Book.
Join Us. Get a Book.
By Paul E. Richardson

Why can’t we get along with Russia long term, nor can Russia seem to long enjoy our company? Our Spine of Russia project aims to find out.

Read More
July 1, 2015
War and Peace: 7 Fun Facts
War and Peace: 7 Fun Facts
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

How many characters are in Tolstoy's War and Peace? Could it have been any shorter? Did Tolstoy himself love it or hate it? Find out the answers to these – and more! – questions in this quick list of little-known War and Peace facts.

Read More
Tags: Tolstoy, war and peace, literature
June 24, 2015
What a Difference a Decade Makes
What a Difference a Decade Makes
By Paul E. Richardson

We will send two photojournalists – one American, one Russian – on a month-long road trip down “The Spine of Russia,” to gather the story of modern Russia, to talk to Russians about what they think about America and Americans...

Read More
Tags: travel, us-russian relations, society