The 12 days of Christmas

In the middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were quite different. People used to spend Advent time in peace and silence, praying and keeping a pious behaviour until 24th December, when they all would go to to sleep to wait for Christmas.

On December 25th we celebrate Christmas and Jesus birth. The following days we do not celebrate, but in the past Christians used to celebrate every day after Christmas until January 6th ( The Epiphany). This carol, is a beloved one, dedicated to the 12 Days of Christmas.





Christmas in Russia is celebrated on January 7, according to the Orthodox calendar. Though the date of Russian Christmas was always the same the traditions have been going through plenty of changes during the past 200 years.

Prior to Christmas Day, there is Christmas Eve, which marks the start of an old Slavic holiday, Svyatki, 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. 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. It began regaining popularity only recently, partially because Russian leaders, starting with Vladimir Putin, annually attend a Christmas liturgy.

People in Russia celebrate Christmas Day with activities 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 – a symbol of Jesus Christ’s birth. Many Orthodox Christians go to the church to attend a Christmas liturgy that evening.

In the traditional Russian Christmas, special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for 39 days, until January 6th Christmas Eve, when the first evening star in appears in the sky. Then begins a twelve course supper in honor of each of the twelve apostles – fish, beet soup or Borsch, cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more. Hay is spread on the floors and tables to encourage horse feed to grow in the coming year and people make clucking noises to encourage their hens to lay eggs. On Christmas Day, hymns and carols are sung. People gather in churches which have been decorated with the usual Christmas trees or Yelka, flowers and colored lights.

Babushka is a traditional Christmas figure who distributes presents to children. Her name means grandmother and the legend is told that she declined to go with the wise men to see Jesus because of the cold weather. However, she regretted not going and set off to try and catch up, filling her basket with presents. She never found Jesus, and that is why she visits each house, leaving toys for good children. The role of Father Christmas was played by Dedushka Moroz or Grandfather Christmas.

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.

Russische Weihnachten



Die russisch-orthodoxen Christen feiern am 7. Januar das Fest der Erscheinung des Herrn, also den Tag, an dem Gott Mensch wurde. Leider durfte man in Russland nach der Oktober Revolution 1917 Weihnachten (auf russisch: Рождество), wie viele andere religiöse Feste, nicht mehr feiern, und einige Bräuche wurden vergessen. Doch seitdem im Jahr 1991 der 7. Januar zu einem offiziellen Feiertag erklärt wurde, wird Weihnachten in Russland wieder richtig gefeiert. 40 Tage vor Weihnachten beginnt für die orthodoxen Christen die Fastenzeit. Denn nur nach einer körperlichen und geistigen Reinigung können Gläubige Gottes Sohn mit reinem Herzen empfangen. Das Weihnachtsfasten dauert vom 28. November 2012 bis zum 6. Januar 2013. Diese Fastenzeit wird auch Philippus-Fasten genannt. Am 27. November (am 14. November nach der alten Zeitrechnung) feiert die Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche den Gedenktag des Apostels Philippus. Vor Weihnachten wird in Russland nicht geschleckert. Doch Nüsse, Trockenfrüchte und Honig darf man sich in Maßen gönnen. In der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche ist vor allem der Verzehr von Fleisch, Käse, Butter, Milch und Eiern in der Weihnachtszeit nicht erlaubt. Außerdem darf man montags, mittwochs und freitags erst nach der Abendmesse essen und sollte dabei auf Fisch, Pflanzenöl und Wein verzichten. Samstags und sonntags darf man Fisch essen und sogar ein bisschen Wein sowie andere alkoholische Getränke trinken. Vom 2. bis zum 6. Januar soll der Fisch komplett weggelassen werden. Während des Weihnachtsfastens isst man in Russland vor allem wärmende Suppen, verschiedene Breie mit Pilzen oder Trockenfrüchten oder in Pflanzenöl gegartes Gemüse.