Though the Christmas season is engulfed in snow in Siberia, the country witness lot of festivities. As it was part of the Soviet Union, the Christmas celebrations in Siberia has plenty of similarities with that of Russia. As a result, as in the case of any Eastern Orthodox country, Siberia celebrate Christmas on January 6, following the Julian calendar which is correspondingly later. Being part of the communist regime in Soviet Union, Christmas and other religious festivals were banned in Siberia. In a country where people took pride to be known by atheists, Christmas was revived in the year 1992. The Christmas celebrations in Siberia are quite different and have plenty of legends, myths and folklores attached to it. Christmas food items such as Kutia' and 'Sochivo', legend of Babushka, father Frost's granddaughter Snegurochka are some of the few in the mythological armour of Siberia. Read further to know more about the various unique Christmas celebrations in Siberia.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
Christmas On January 7
In Siberia in Russia, Christmas is celebrated on January 6th. This is because, Russian Orthodox calendar refused to follow the Gregorian calendar and kept track of the Julian calendar to decide on the date of the holiday. The Julian calendar is 13 days behind the Russian calendar. As a result, Christmas comes after New Year which is the bigger of the two. Christmas was actually banned in Soviet Union and this had an effect on the traditions which they have today. The official Christmas and New Year holidays in Russia 31st of December and ends on 10th January. Russian Christmas greeting is known as 'S Rozhdestvom!'
'Kutia' And 'Sochivo'
In Siberia, there are some people who observe fast on Christmas Eve till the first star appears on the sky. Following this, people take 'Kutia' or 'sochivo' which is porridge made from wheat or rice. This is served along with honey, poppy seeds, fruit, walnuts or fruit jellies. Kutia is eaten from a common bowl which signifies unity. Earlier, there was a custom in which people throw a spoonful of sochivo to the ceiling. In case it sticks to the ceiling, they believed that it brings good luck and good harvest. The Russian word for Christmas Eve 'sochelnik' came from 'sochivo'.
Christmas Eve Food
The prominent Christmas food items in Siberia include beetroot soup (borsch), vegan potluck (solyanka) which is served with vegetable pies made of cabbage, potato or mushroom. Sauerkraut is a main dish in a Christmas meal which is served with cranberries, cumin, shredded carrot and onion rings. Salads also form a major food item which is often made out of vegetables like gherkins, mushrooms or tomatoes, potatoes or other root vegetables. This is often followed by desserts which include fruit pies, ginger bread, honey bread cookies and fresh and dry fruits. An exclusive dish namely, 'Vzvar' which is a sweet drink made from dried fruit and honey boiled in water is served at the end of the meal. Vzvar' actually means the birth of a child and at Christmas, it symbolises the birth of Baby Jesus. There are some Orthodox Christians who don't eat meat or fish during Christmas meal or feast.
Prayers And Father Frost
After the meal, people attend church services at midnight which is continued till morning. For Siberians, New Year is even more important than Christmas and it is on New Year's Eve that the Father Frost visits the households, often accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka. Once they appear, the stars on the Christmas tree lights up. As Christmas trees were banned in Soviet Union, people decorated the New Year trees.
The Legend Of Babushka
One of the most popular things about the Christmas in Siberia is the legend of Babushka which means 'grandmother' or 'old woman' in Russia. It is the story of an old and lone woman who lived in Russia; she is believed to have met the Three Wise men who were on their way to meet Jesus who invited her to join them. Though she rejected the invitation, she repented in the decision and decided to go to meet the baby Jesus and collected some gifts. She couldn't meet the child and it is said that the old woman is looking for the child even now and whenever she meets a small child, she presents them.
In Siberia and other parts of Russia, the weather is always cold and snowy. As the temperature is always in minus degrees, Siberia always has a white Christmas.
There are plenty of interesting stories and legends associated with the Christmas in Siberia. Hope this article familiarised you with some of these legends.
The white Christmas is celebrated in all fervor and enthusiasm in Siberia. Read on to know more about the Christmas traditions, customs and celebrations in Siberia.