St. Nicholas Tradition: St. Nikola (and the secular, Ded Moroz, "Grandfather Frost")
Highlighted Custom: Holy Supper
|St. Nicholas Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia [source]|
(more information about Russian and St. Nicholas here)
During the communist years St. Nicholas was transformed into "Grandfather Frost" (Ded Moroz), the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts for the celebration of New Year's Day. He is always accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka ("Snow Girl"), a merry girl who helps Grandfather Frost provide the New Year party for children. According to new tradition, Grandfather Frost and Snow Girl live in the town Veliky Ustug from which they begin their New Year journey by troika, a sledge drawn by three white horses.
Other religious traditions were suppressed during the communist era. Before the revolution, a figure called Babushka would bring gifts for the children. The legend is that Babushka failed to give food and shelter to the three wise men during their journey to visit the Christ Child. According to tradition, she still roams the countryside searching for the Christ Child and visiting the homes of children during the Christmas season. Babushka never completely disappeared, and now in the post-communist era, has returned openly.
Christmas trees (Yolka) were also banned by the Communist regime, but people began to trim "New Year's" trees instead. To this day, New Year's is more widely celebrated than Christmas, which is now allowed again as a religious celebration.
|To read my post about Uncle Vova's Tree click HERE.|
Most Christian Russians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is customary to fast from meat and dairy until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. Since the Russian Othodox Church follows the old Julian Calendar, Christmas Day is January 7th. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. Kutya, a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients including various grains for hope, and honey and poppy seeds for happiness and peace.
|"Christmas is Here" painting by Yaroslava Surmach Mills|
MORE PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT CHRISTMAS IN RUSSIA:
The Miracle of St. Nicholas, by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Judith Brown, for ages 5-8 (click on the title to read my review).
The Miraculous Child, by Alvin Aleski Currier, illustrated by Nadezda Glazunova. (ages 4-8)
"The Miraculous Child is a charming, delightfully illustrated Russian tale of a poor Russian family who entertains an angel unawares in a humble log home where a woodcutter, his mother, wife and children have almost nothing to eat, very little to trade or sell, and nothing for the Christmas Feast. The woodcutter encounters a little boy out in a field, shivering and cold. When he brings the lad into his home to share what little poor fare the family has, they discover that it's an angel they have invited in from the cold and a Christmas Feast is held that will never be forgotten.
Information source for St. Nicholas: www.stnicholascenter.org