Christmas Around the World is a 10-part series. This audio podcast is narrated by Tatyana (Tanya) Ivanov. Tanya Ivanov was born in Kazakhstan and moved to the U.S. when she was five. She now lives in Vancouver.
Tanya Ivanov: As in other Eastern Orthodox countries, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. Unlike its Western counterparts, Christmas is mainly 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 всеночная, All Night Vigil. Then again, on Christmas Morning, for the заутренняя, Divine Liturgy of the Nativity.
The tradition of celebrating Christmas has been revived since 1992, after decades of suppression by the Communist government. Christmas is now a national holiday in Russia, as part of the ten-day holiday at the start of every new year. While Christmas is increasingly important, many Russians continue to focus on the New Year’s celebration.
During the Soviet period, religious celebrations were discouraged. However, a number of Russian Christmas traditions were kept alive by shifting them to the secular New Year celebration. These include the decoration of a tree, or yolka, festive decorations and family gatherings, the visit by gift-giving Дед Мороз, Grandfather Frost, and his granddaughter, Снегурочка, The Snowmaiden.
Many of these were brought to Russia by Peter the Great after his Western travels in the late 17th century.
Audio captured and edited by Ed Stortro
Audio transcription by Ed Stortro
Voice over Tanya Ivanov