Christmas traditions in Russia

The Russian Federation, also known as Russia, is the only country in the world that expands across the continents of Europe and Asia, nearly doubling the size of Canada, Canada is the second-largest country in the world. Russia is a country rich in culture and heritage, it shares a coast with the mysterious Black Sea, and borders numerous  neighboring countries.

As the political structure of Russia has evolved, so has the culture of the Russian people.  As the culture of the Russian people has evolved, many distinct characteristics of the Russian way of life have been altered, one of them being the celebration of the Christmas holiday in Russia. 

Saint Nicholas has always been a popular Christmas figure for the Russians. Saint Nicholas is a bishop-like man in a tall hat and beard who delivers presents to the homes of children who have been well-behaved during the year on Christmas Eve, or sometimes the Eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas which takes place on December 6th. Saint Nicholas has since been replaced in society by Dedushka Moroz, or Father Frost.

In the old days before the Russian revolution, it was a stout older woman named Babushka (whose name means grandmother in Russian) that was said to have delivered the gifts to all of the children’s homes on Christmas Eve. The tradition behind Babushka and her gift giving ways, is that on their journey to visit the baby Jesus the three wise men came across Babushka and invited her to come along with them and see him for herself. She declined their offer, but later regretted it and set out to try to catch up with the three wise men, but they were already well on their way at that time. Before she left, Babushka filled her basket with gifts for the infant. Unfortunately, the old woman did not know to follow the stars the three wise men had been advised to do, so she became very disoriented and lost her way. As the legend tells it, Babushka never did make it to see the baby Jesus, so she spends her Christmas Eves wandering the world in search of him, leaving gifts at the home of all of the children who have been on their best behavior throughout the year. 

Also, during the more traditional Russian Christmas celebrations, people will begin fasting as early as 39 days before Christmas, which is celebrated on January 6th. On the final day of their fast when the first stars begin to appear in the sky, in honor of the Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to baby Jesus, the Russian people then begin their Christmas feast. 

A traditional Russian Christmas dinner will consist of twelve courses, one to honor each of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Their meal could consist of many types of main courses ranging from turkey to goose to ham.  Fish is also eaten as a main course in many Russian Christmas feasts, especially when larger numbers of people are in attendance.