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Russian Christmas Info

Folk Traditions
 
Religious Traditions
 
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Russian Christmas Folk Traditions

Russian Santa: Grandfather Frost is the Russian Santa Claus. He brings gifts to the children at New Year's, which is the most popular Russian holiday celebration. His grand-daughter, the "Snowmaiden," accompanies him to help distribute the gifts. All of our Russian Santas ares hand-carved and hand-painted in one of the traditional wood carving villages of old Russia. Linden wood is the most commonly used wood for these wonderful Russian Santas.

New Years Eve - December 31st - is the big day for the celebration of Russian Chrsitmas in post-revolutionary, Russia. On New Years Eve Grandfather Frost (Russia's version of Santa Claus) arrives with his granddaughter the Snowmaiden. They bring bags of candy for the children and Grandfather Frost listens to the girls and boys sing songs and recite poems. After this, he gives small Christmas gifts to the children.

Russians decorate their homes with a Christmas tree and often put pine leaves on their front doors, and in the house. The Russian Christmas tree is usually taken down at the end of January after the feast day of the Baptism of Christ.

"C novom godom!" (snow-vum gode-um)- meaning "with the New Year" - is a common New Years Eve - Christmas holiday greeting.

Russian Christmas Religious Traditions

Russian Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7th (following the Old Calendar this is the 25th of December) and the celebration lasts for six days.

In the Orthodox tradition nothing is eaten or drunk on Christmas Eve until the first star appears in the sky. The star is symbolic of the great star that led the Magi to the newly born Christ. Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin with a Lenten meal - meaning meat or dairy products (including chocolates) are excluded. This Christmas Eve meal is "The Holy Supper" .

The family gathers around the table to honor the coming Christ Child. A white tablecloth is used to symbolize Christ's swaddling clothes and hay is displayed as a reminder of the poverty of the place where Jesus was born. A tall white candle is placed in the center of the Table, to symbolize Christ - the "Light of the World." A large round loaf of "pagach", a special Lenten bread, is placed beside the candle to symbolize Christ - the "Bread of Life".

The father begins the Christmas meal by leading the family in the Lord's Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year and for the good things to come in the new year. The head of the family greets those present with "Christ is Born!" - the traditional Russian Christmas greeting - and the family responds with "Glorify Him!" The Mother then draws a cross with honey on each person's forehead, saying a blessing - "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year." The Lenten bread (Pagach) is then broken and shared. The bread is dipped first in honey to symbolize the sweetness of life and then in chopped garlic to symbolize life's bitterness. The "Holy Supper" is then eaten. After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. The family goes to church for the Christmas Mass which lasts until after midnight.

Traditionally, the "Holy Supper" consists of 12 different foods, symbolic of the 12 Apostles. Although there was also some variation in the foods from place to place and village to village, the following is a good summary of what is typically served.

1) Mushroom soup with zaprashka (or Sauerkraut soup)
2) Lenten bread ("pagach")
3) Chopped garlic
4) Honey
5) Baked fish
6) Fresh Oranges, Figs and Dates
7) Nuts
8) Kidney beans (cooked slowly all day) seasoned with shredded potatoes, lots of garlic, salt and pepper to taste
9) Peas
10) Parsley Potatoes (boiled new potatoes with chopped parsley and margarine)
11) Bobal'ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppy seed with honey)
12) Red Wine

On Christmas morning the family returns to church for the Christmas day Liturgy. After church the family gathers together to exchange gifts and share a special Christmas meal. Children go from door to door caroling the song "Thy Nativity".

"C Rodzhestvom Kristovom"(srod-zshest-vum krist-o-vum) is a common Russian Christmas greeting, meaning "with the Birth of Christ!"

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Recipes for Russian Christmas

Russian Christmas Coffee Cake - a Christmas Morning Treat
Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

Filling and Topping

1/2 lb. butter (or margarine)

3/4 cup sugar

1 pint sour cream

4 tablespoons cinnamon

3 unbeaten eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

2 1/2 cups flour

 

3 teaspoons baking powder

 

1 teaspoon baking soda

 

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Cream together sugar and margarine. Mix in the sour cream. Add the unbeaten eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine the flour mixture gradually into the butter/egg mixture. The dough will become stiff. Spoon half the dough into a well-greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Mix together the topping ingredients: sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Sprinkle 3/4 of the topping/filling over the first half of the dough. Add the remaining dough and sprinkle rest of topping. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool 1 hour before removing from the pan. 

Russian Christmas Tea Cakes
Ingredients:

1 cup margarine softened

2 cup flour

1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

1/2 cup pecans, or walnuts chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

confectioners' sugar

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream the margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Mix in the flour and pecans. Chill for 2 hours. Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven until very lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Roll in confectioners' sugar before serving. Store in an airtight container. Makes 3 dozen.

Russian Spice Tea - Christmas Holiday favorite
Ingredients:

3 lemons

2 quarts weak tea

3 oranges

2 tbsp. whole cloves

1 pt. pineapple juice

2 c. sugar

Preparation: Squeeze juice from the lemons and oranges. Pour some boiling water over the cloves and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain the juice and cloves. Add sugar and mix well. Add the tea and heat to boiling. Serve hot.

Instant Version - "Russian" Spice Tea:
Ingredients:

1/2 cup instant Nestea tea - unsweetened

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 1/2 cups orange-flavored TANG

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup instant Nestea Iced Tea Mix - Lemon flavored sweetened

1 tsp ground cloves

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in large container and mix well. To serve, use 2 to 3 teaspoons of mix per cup and add hot/boiling water

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Russian Santas
 
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