Christmas in Russia
Christmas in Russia (Russian: Рождество Христово Rozhdestvo Khristovo, in the Russian Orthodox Church called Е́же по пло́ти Рождество Господа Бога и Спа́са нашего Иисуса Христа) is celebrated on 7 January and marks the birthday of Jesus Christ. Christmas is regarded mainly as a religious event in Russia. On Christmas Eve (6 January), there are several long services, including the Royal Hours and Vespers combined with the Divine Liturgy. The family will then return home for the traditional Christmas Eve "Holy Supper", which consists of 12 dishes, one to honor each of the Twelve Apostles. Devout families will then return to church for the "всенощная" All Night Vigil. Then again, on Christmas Morning, for the "заутренняя" Divine Liturgy of the Nativity. Since 1992 Christmas has become a national holiday in Russia, as part of the ten-day holiday at the start of every new year.
In Russia, the Christmas holiday has become the official celebration with the baptism of Rus' ordered by Prince Vladimir in the late 10th century, however, given the early Christian community Kievan Rus', celebration likely has a longer history.
During the early-mid Soviet period, religious celebrations were discouraged by the official state policy of atheism until 1936. Christmas tree and related celebrations were gradually eradicated after the October Revolution. In 1935, in a surprising turn of state politics, the Christmas tradition was adopted as part of the secular New Year celebration. These include the decoration of a tree, or "ёлка" (spruce), festive decorations and family gatherings, the visit by gift-giving "Ded Moroz" (Дед Мороз "Grandfather Frost") and his granddaughter, "Snegurochka" (Снегурочка "The Snowmaiden").
Traditional Russian cuisine
Principal dishes on the Christmas table in old Russia included a variety of pork (roasted pig), stuffed pig's head, roasted meat chunks, jelly (kholodets), and aspic. Christmas dinner also included many other meats: goose with apples, sour cream hare, venison, lamb, whole fish, etc. The abundance of lumpy fried and baked meats, whole baked chicken, and fish on the festive table was associated with features of the Russian oven, which allowed successful preparation of large portions.
Finely sliced meat and pork was cooked in pots with semi-traditional porridge. Pies were indispensable dishes for Christmas, as well as other holidays, and included both closed and open style pirogi (pirozhki, vatrushkas, coulibiacs, kurnik, boats, saechki, shangi), kalachi, cooked casseroles, and blini. Fillings of every flavor were included (herbal, vegetable, fruit, mushrooms, meat, fish, cheese, mixed).
Sweet dishes served on the Russian Christmas table included berries, fruit, candy, cakes, angel wings, biscuits, honey. Beverages included drinking broths (kompot and sweet soups, sbiten), kissel, and, from the beginning of the 18th century, Chinese tea.
Complaints to the Russian Constitutional Court
In 1999, atheist MV Agbunov requested that the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation tested the constitutionality of decrees on the recognition of 7 January as a federal holiday. This request was denied by the court by the argument that, "the specified statutory provisions apply to the law on public holidays days ..., and do not contain provisions indicating the violation of constitutional rights and freedoms referred to by the applicant. (Articles 14, 19, 28 and 29 (part 2) of the Constitution of Russia)".
In 2008, a neo-pagan group filed a similar complaint. The group argued that the fact that Orthodox Christmas is an official holiday is contrary to the Constitution of Russia, according to which "no religion can be established as state and obligatory". After having considered the complaint, the court rejected it on the grounds that decisions about public holidays are within the competence of the Russian Parliament and are not a constitutional matter.
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