Unlike us the Russian Christmas is celebrated on the 7th January, like in the rest of the slavic countries. As in our culture, this day marks the birth of Christ. Although its celebration was forbidden during the Soviet union, recently it bagan to gain popularity and religious meaning again.
Russians celebrate Christmas Day with the same activities like us such as having a family dinner, attending a Christmas liturgy and visiting relatives and friends. There is a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas Day, when practicing Christians do not eat any meat. The Lent period ends with the first star in the night sky on January 6, which means a symbol of Jesus Christ’s birth and that the Christmas dinner can start. Many Orthodox Christians go to the church to attend a Christmas liturgy that evening.
Nowadays, Christmas Day is a family holiday but it is not as important for many as New Year’s Day. Many people visit friends and relatives, as well as give and receive presents, on January 7. Prior to Christmas Day, there is Christmas Eve, which marks the start of an old Slavic holiday, Святик or Svyatik, in which young women used a mirror and candles to invoke the image of their future husbands. Like going to church, fortune-telling on Christmas Eve is again becoming popular in Russia.
Orthodox Christmas is a national holiday in Russia so banks and public offices are closed on January 7. If Christmas Day falls on a weekend, the non-labor day moves to the following Monday. Russian authorities may sometimes declare a national vacation from January 1 to 10 due to the close proximity of New Year’s holidays (January 1-5), Christmas and the weekends between these two holidays.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks banned Christmas celebrations. Many Christmas traditions, such as decorating a fir tree and giving presents, turned into New Year’s traditions. Christmas became an official holiday and a non-labor day in Russia in 1991. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates religious holidays according to the Julian calendar but Russia uses the Gregorian calendar for secular purposes since 1918.
The common symbols of Orthodox Christmas are a decorated fir tree, a star (such as the first star in the sky or the star on top of the Christmas tree) and baby Jesus.
As you can see, the difference between cultures is only the celebration date; if you are more interested about this subject, I have published an article about the Russian celebrations according with the old calendar. The link is right below,
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