After Christmas and once the New Year has arrived, there comes Twelfth Night, the holiday, apparently, for which Shakespeare wrote his play. In some Christian countries this holiday comes with images of the Magi, the Three Kings, and children are given presents to commemorate the gifts brought to the Christ child, presumably on the twelfth day after his birth. Russia, however, has its own way of marking Twelfth Night.
First of all, if we are talking about contemporary Russia, the calendar used by the Orthodox Church, which never switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, as Soviet Russia did after the revolution, is, for now, 13 days behind the secular calendar. This puts Eastern Christmas a whole week after Western New Year’s, posing a challenge to those observing the Christmas fast, since they cannot partake in the traditional New Year’s gluttony.
These days, however, people in Russia’s major cities have begun celebrating Christmas on December 25, not quite understanding that they are marking what their predecessors traditionally referred to as “Catholic Christmas.” Nor do they give too much thought to the fact that they are celebrating one New Year’s Eve on December 31 and continuing the holiday season not just through Orthodox Christmas (January 7), but also through a second (Old) New Year’s Eve (January 13). Some of these days are considered workdays – supposedly it’s time to return to regular life after January 7. But in reality, the festivities continue another week.
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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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