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Christmas in Russia – Date, Customs & Traditions

Christmas in Russia - date, br&auml ;uche & traditions

Christmas is the second most important festival of the year for devout Christians in Russia. Christmas Eve in Russia is not celebrated on December 24th, but on January 6th. Presenting takes place on December 31st. You can find out why this is the case and what differences there are to German Christmas celebrations here.

Christmas after New Year's Eve

How come Russians don't celebrate Christmas until after New Year's Eve? This is because the Orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar – which began in 45 BC. introduced by Julius Caesar and named after him, live and celebrate their festivals. While Pope Gregory XIII initiated a reformation with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar at the end of the 16th century, the Russian Orthodox Church remained faithful to the Julian calendar. The difference between the two calendars is 13 days.

The crucial point: For some time now, New Year's Eve in Russia – just like in Germany – has taken place on December 31st, i.e. 13 days earlier than Christmas, which takes place on the night of December 6th .will be observed on January 7th. Accordingly, the following applies in Russia: New Year's Eve is celebrated before Christmas.

Special features of the festival

74 years no Christmas

Did you know that Russians were banned from celebrating Christmas for over seven decades? After the October Revolution of 1917, Bolsheviks took control of the country and banned all Christian celebrations. Only when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 did Christmas come back in Russia.


40 days before the festival, devout Russians have to fast strictly. The Church prescribes not only abstinence when eating. Rather, people should confess their mistakes and sins and also learn to forgive others. During this time, no meat, sausage, eggs or dairy products may be consumed. Fruit and vegetables, fish dishes, vegetable oil and on some days wine in moderation are allowed.

On Christmas Eve, the Sochelnik, nothing is eaten until the evening. Lent only ends after the big mass.

The traditional Christmas celebration

On Sochelnik, the day of Christmas Eve on January 6th, a service lasting up to several hours is celebrated. The televised mass in the Church of Christ the Redeemer in Moscow lasts into the morning hours.

At midnight, the birth of Christ is announced and the 40-day period of Lent is considered to be over.

After the mass, the people gather people to a sumptuous meal. First is Kutya, a very old Slavic dish consisting of wheat grains, nuts and honey. These ingredients have a strong symbolic meaning for devout Russians. The grains of wheat stand for rebirth and immortality of the soul. Honey and nuts symbolize fertility and wealth.

Then come goose or duck stuffed with apples, blinis and pirogues stuffed with meat. Apple pie is usually served for dessert.

Christmas and presents on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is also celebrated in Russia on December 31st. But did you know that the giving of presents takes place at the same time, which is completely missing on January 6th?

Russian families decorate their Christmas trees, give each other presents and meet to eat stuffed dumplings and salads. The Seledka pod schuboj salad has a long tradition, which is prepared in layers of finely chopped herring, potatoes, carrots and eggs with the addition of mayonnaise and is decorated on top with grated beetroot.

The festival is a highlight especially for children, because they are waiting for the arrival of the Russian Santa Claus, Ded Moroz, who brings gifts together with his granddaughter Snegurochka. Schools organize celebrations on this day, where the little ones come dressed as animals and dance around the big, beautifully decorated “yolka”, the Russian Christmas tree with a red star on top, sing songs and Ded Moros< /i> and Snegurochka are waiting. Those who have been good, sung and danced well will receive the long-awaited gifts. Most of them are packages with sweets.


Russian Christmas has little in common with German Christmas. The traditional Christmas celebration, which is preceded by a strict period of Lent, does not take place in Russia until after New Year's Eve. Presents are only given out on New Year's Eve.
In this way, the Russian New Year's Eve celebration has more in common with the German Christmas in this country than the actual Russian Christmas celebration.

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