С Рождеством? Russian Orthodox Christmas?
Christmas was two weeks ago buddy, what are you on about?
Well this week, today (January 7th) to be precise, is when the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity — aka Christmas. Why? Well apparently, because Tradition.
Back in the 40’s BCE, Julius Caesar implemented a calendar devised by an Alexandrian astronomer named Sosigenes, which came to be known as the Julian Calendar. Unfortunately, the calendar was off by 11 minutes and 14 seconds each year, and so by the time Pope Gregory XIII was interested in a reform, the calendar was about 13 days off from where it should have been. Gregory enacted the reform as best he could, but not many countries bought into it at first. As time went on more and more accepted the calendar, until finally, in 1927, everyone was using it.
It would seem that Russia made the switch in 1918, when the Soviets came into power, but the Orthodox Church did not change with them as it would more or less invalidate centuries of important dates, feasts, and practiced tradition.
By 1929, every religious holiday in Russia was abolished by the state, and with it, a plethora of both folk and liturgical tradition, culture and ritual ceased to be . . . kinda. Turns out many of the Christmas traditions were revived later on as New Years Eve/Day traditions which we’ll talk about next week on January 14th.
In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Christmas and many holidays were reinstated.
However, whether recognized by the state or not, it seems like certain traditions like a special Christmas meal never really ceased and so those celebrating a Russian Christmas, might expect to eat delicious foods like:
. . . 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 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, 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.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_in_Russia#Traditional_festive_cuisine
All in all, it sounds pretty amazing.
So why am I writing about this?
Well, I’ve written before about being Russian Orthodox and some of our Easter/Pascha traditions, and I thought this would be another cool look into that part of my background and heritage. However, seeing as I was born here in America and am like 4th generation or something like that, my family’s ‘Russian Christmas’ was a little less involved. I’m not sure we’ve ever attended church on January 7th, and I don’t believe we ever feasted in the way described in the quote above (although I think mom sometimes did make us a nice meal often with pirogi!).
Mostly, our family’s Russian Christmas tradition was to hold one gift back until the 7th and then open it then. Usually these gifts were something to do with the church, like a small icon, or a cross which I sometimes wear on a necklace.
While not as big and festive as perhaps some of the festivities mentioned above, or our regular Christmas celebrated on December 25th like everyone else, I always enjoyed these little celebrations as well. Now that my sister and I are older, the family usually just texts each other Merry Christmas again and this too is nice. A little something special that only my family does.
So, for everyone reading . . . С Рождеством! Merry (Russian Orthodox) Christmas!
Any weird holidays in your family? Anyone else celebrating this one? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
See you next time!
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