Russians are preparing to celebrate Christmas on 7 January in accordance with the Julian calendar still used by the Russian Orthodox Church.
remains unclear where President Vladimir Putin will attend Christmas Eve Mass,
but some in the Moscow Patriarchate would like to move Christmas Day to 1
January, New year's Day, because the religious occurrence is only marginally followed.
6 January, Orthodox Christians stop their fast for Sochelnik, Christmas Eve. According to tradition, people fast until
the first star is visible, which, according to tradition, is the star of
Bethlehem that announces the birth of Christ.
is broken with sochivo, a vegetable
dish made from scalded wheat grains, or rice, mixed with seeds, juice, and
honey, a humble dish symbolising Jesus' coming into the world to suffer for us and
save us, hence the name Sochelnik.
that, the dinner table is covered with all sorts of food for Christmas dinner attended
by the whole family.
this time, women, especially young, meet for various rites about the future,
most often about marriage. They write the name of the men they would like to
marry on pieces of paper, which they place in their pillows. In the morning,
the first name they pick will be that of their future husband.
'Divine liturgy' will be held in the evening of 6 January, Christmas Eve. The patriarch
will officiate in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, with Dmitri Medvedev,
who is prime minister again after a mandate as president, and his wife Svetlana
in front row.
Putin usually attends a Christmas service in a provincial parish without his
This year, he will probably be in Krasnodar, in southern Russia, which
suffered from heavy flooding last summer.
Christmas Eve Mass, Rozhdestvo tvoe,
Christe bozhe nash (Merry Christmas has come) is sung as a Christmas icon and
a candle, symbol of the start of Bethlehem, are carried to the centre of the
a recent survey, some 80 per cent of Russians said they were Orthodox, but only
8 per cent take in religious services on a regularly basis.
view of this, Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev, a professor at the Moscow Theological
Academy and a top ranking official in the Russian Orthodox Church, proposed to combining
Christmas-marginally celebrated after 70 years of State-imposed atheism-with secular-oriented
New Year (Novi God) celebrations, which
are the most important on the Russian calendar.
The goal is to reduce the gap
Russia's secular and religious cultures.
Soviet rule, Christmas was banned and Novi God was the most popular festivity, celebrated
in family, around the dinner table with gifts exchanged, and everyone waiting
for the arrival of Old Man Frost.
the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the possibility of unifying the
Catholic and Orthodox liturgical calendars has been discussed so that the two
sister Churches might celebrate together at least the main festivities that the
two traditions share.
for Kuraev, it makes no sense for Russia to adopt 25 December.
New Year celebrations because it was the least politicised festivity in Soviet
times. "Everyone's energy goes into celebrating 31 December," he said, "and
little is left for Christmas."