Merry Christmas From Russia


The Russians celebrate according to their old traditions, full of many symbolic acts, particularly the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The Christmas Eve fast lasts until they finish their evening worship service or until the first star appears. Once the star appears, the festivities begin.

The Holy Supper” is a festive Lenten meal where the family comes together at the dinner table and honors the coming Baby Jesus. Certain props are used during the meal: a white cloth is spread across the table and is representative of the swaddling cloths, and hay is brought in as a reminder of the lowly place that Jesus was born. A tall, white candle sits in the center of the table as symbolism of Christ being “The Light of the World.” The “pagach,” a large, round loaf of Lenten bread, is placed next to the candle and stands for Christ being the “Bread of Life.”

The family begins the meal with the father saying the Lord's Prayer, followed by a prayer of thanking God for their many blessings of the previous year and then a prayer for the upcoming year's good things. The head of the family gives the Christmas greeting, “Christ is born!” while the family responds with, “Glorify Him!” The mother blesses everyone present by drawing a cross on each forehead with honey, saying, “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.” Everyone takes some of the bread, dipping into the honey and then the chopped garlic. The honey symbolizes the “sweetness of life,” while the garlic stands for the bitterness experienced. Finally, the “Holy Supper” is eaten!

No dishes are washed after the feast because the Christmas presents are opened. Afterwards, the family goes to church, getting home between 2- to- 3 a.m. The next day, on the Feat of the Nativity, the family members visit with their neighbors by going from house to house, singing Christmas carols and eating and drinking the day away.




Copyright 2003 Mary E. Bishop