The Christmas decorations were all packed away weeks ago here in the UK, but Russia’s just finished clearing up after its Christmas celebrations.
In Russia, those following the Orthodox religion choose to fast for 40 days, abstaining from meat and dairy products in the run up to Christmas – similar to what we do in the west before Easter. On January 6th, the night sky signals that it’s time to go to mass, after which friends and family are invited for a slap up meal and the giving of presents. Though that all sounds very familiar, there are a few differences when compared to what we do in the UK.
Christmas Eve in Russia is referred to as Sochevnik, which comes from the word sochivo meaning grain. Lentils, peas, barley or even wheat that has been soaked in water is served as a kind of porridge after people come back from church. It’s called kutya. The meat you’d expect to see served is traditionally goose, as it was in the UK many years ago. Cooks smother it with plenty of sour cream sauce before it goes in the oven as that gives it a wonderful rich flavour when it comes out. As we would with pork, it’s served with baked apples. Afterwards, don’t be surprised to be handed a kozulya. These biscuits often take the form of an animal such as a reindeer or a goat.
Christmas dinner has more such similarities to its UK counterpart. Does your family still hide a small coin in the Christmas pudding? In Russia, it’s not a pudding that might contain a surprise, but instead it might be in the stuffed dumplings. A coin indicates you might be about to come into some money, while thread suggests travel and a piece of tomato is the precursor to romance.
In Russia, on Christmas Eve, there’s a tradition that single women try to see who they might one day marry by using a mirror and candles. Groups of female friends might also burn threads of string. Custom dictates that it’s the person whose thread burns the fastest who’ll be next up the aisle. And regardless of gender, people across Russia call upon the spirits to determine whether the New Year bring good fortune, health, wealth and happiness or not.
As 2020 kicks off, we are looking forward to great things here at Just Go Russia. We hope that you can look forward to a lucky, prosperous and healthy year and it would bring us great joy to hear that you will be travelling with us to Russia. But even if you’re not, we wish you the very best.