Celebrations in Russia
The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar and Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. It is both solemn ritual and joyous celebration. At the onset of the Soviet Regime, religious practice was greatly suppressed and Christmas along with ALL other religious celebrations was banned for many years. It wasn't until 1992 (roughly 75 yrs later) that Christmas was openly celebrated again.Prior to 1992, Christmas was celebrated under the guise of New Years instead, and St. Nicholas was replaced with Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost- the Russian spirit of Winter - who brought presents on New Year’s Day. He looks very much like a western Santa but is dressed in a blue suit. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, or the snowmaid Few, who helps distribute gifts. Of course, the Christmas tree (or Yolka) was also banned, so to keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year’s Yolkas instead. The trees were trimmed with handmade decorations and fruit.
Two interpretations of Ded Moroz "Grandfather Frost"
When the clock strikes midnight they write their wishes and desires for the New Year on a piece of paper and burn it with a candle. The ash is mixed into a glass of champagne and consumed. Toasts are made for the old and new year to come. Popular beliefs are to return debts before the new year and to wear brand new clothes on New Year’s Day. People celebrate with fireworks, champagne, lavish dinners and gifts, and listen to the President count down the final seconds of the old year. The bells of the Kremlin then chime, ringing in the New Year. Russians welcome the New Year by saying "S Novim Godom" which means "Happy New Year to you" or "Best of luck in the New Year"
Enjoy the Season!