Since 1992, the celebration of Christmas has been revived in Russia and now its gaining popularity year by year. Russian Christmas traditions are quite different from rest of the world, although the spirit and theme of the celebration, remains the same.
On Christmas Eve, members of the Orthodox Church attend the church services. And nowadays Even the President of Russia has started attending these distinctive church services in Moscow.
In Russia, many people observe fasts during Christmas season. Number of days of fasting varies from person to person. Generally people fast for 30 days. Some people fasts for 40 days also.With the appearance of the first evening star, the fasting ends. In Russia, 6th of January is celebrated as the feast day. So many long prayer sessions, church services take place in many churches during this time.
People decorate their houses and backyards with lights, flowers and Christmas ornaments. In Russia, Christmas trees are called "Yelka". They decorate these Christmas trees with glitters, ornaments, beautiful flowers and lights and presents.
With so many delicacies, Russian Christmas feast is very special and unique. The feast is a 12 course dinner which includes beet soup, stuffed cabbage fish, dry fruits and lots of other delicacies. All the family members gather around the table and worship with great devotion. Every item used in these feast symbolizes something, they use a traditional white tablecloth which symbolizes the poverty of the place where baby Jesus was born. One big candle is positioned in the center of the table to symbolize that Christ is the single light of the entire universe. Special lantern bread called "pagach" represent that Jesus is the bread of life.
The most significant dish of the Christmas feast is "Kutya", a special porridge made of wheat berries. Christmas feast of the Eastern Orthodox Christians (Lenten meal) is quite dissimilar as it avoids all meat and dairy stuff. Every item used for the preparation of this feast has a special significance. Wheat berries symbolizes optimism and immortality, honey and poppy seeds stands for happiness and accomplishment.
In Russia, Babushka is a unique Christmas figure. Just like Santa, she brings gifts to children. The meaning of her name is grandmother. According to the belief, she did not to go with the wise men to see Jesus Christ due to the bad climate. Later, she regretted and tried to catch up with a basket full of gifts and chocolates. But she could never find Jesus, and since then she goes home to home, leaving presents for children.
The Russian Santa Claus is called "Ded moroz", or Father, he comes along with Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, he brings toys and presents for kids and places them under the New Year s tree. Russia has a very well-known tradition of hand-made Santa using linden wood.
In Russia Christmas was long suppressed in the influence of the communist authority , so the celebration is still in a revitalizing phase, however in recent days the Christmas celebration has gained lot of popularity in many Russian towns and cities.