How Do Russians Celebrate Christmas?

russians-celebrate-christmas Credit: Kishjar/CC-BY 2.0

Russians celebrate Christmas with Christmas trees, a large Christmas Eve meal and the visit of Grandfather Frost, who brings gifts for children. Although Russians celebrate Christmas in a way very similar to others in the west, the timeline for the celebration is somewhat different.

As opposed to people in the United States, who traditionally end their Christmas season with the New Year or shortly thereafter, the Russian Christmas holiday begin with the New Year. According to the Russian calendar, Christmas Eve does not occur until January 6th. On that night, families have a meal with elements symbolic of the birth of Christ. Some elements involved with the meal include a white tablecloth symbolic of the cloth in which Jesus was wrapped when he was born, hay to symbolize the stable in which he was born and a white candle to represent eternal life. Russian children anticipate the arrival of Grandfather Frost rather than Santa Claus. Similar to Santa Claus, however, Grandfather Frost brings gifts.

Although many Russian households erect and decorate Christmas trees, they are not called Christmas trees. In Russia, they are called New Year's trees. This terminology became standard after Christmas trees were banned during the Communist Party's reign in Russia.