Saturday, July 11, 2009

"C" is for Christmas!

“C” is for uhhh….. I began tonight’s ABC game thinking “C” would be for Communism. Since I know very little about Communism, only the basics- I thought that might be an interesting topic. I was wrong. I read some scholarly articles on Communism and after I wiped the glazed donut look off my face I googled “Communism for Dummies”. That was even a little more advanced for my “sweetened condensed” blog version (Explain Communism in 500 words or less….go!) So I tried “Communism for Kids”. That was a little more helpful, but I was suffering some serious writers block.

SOOOO…. “C” IS FOR CHRISTMAS! From the Revolution of 1917 (I also thought about having “C” stand for Czar, but it wasn’t an easy read either…) until the fall of that other “C” word- Communism, Christmas was officially frowned upon. However, I think it’s the human condition to celebrate some sort of holiday resembling Christmas, thus, the New Year’s festival was born. They have a Santa imposter- “Grandfather Frost”, he is always accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka a.k.a the snow princess. It is commonly celebrated on January 7th or 14th and some folks celebrate both days. That's a good idea.

Step 1- FOOD! What would any holiday be like without it? Some people of the Eastern Orthodox faith celebrate a dinner similar to Christmas Eve Dinner with family and friends on January 6th . The meal begins when the first star is spotted in the sky, or if it’s cloudy, which sounds like a constant problem in Russia, then dinner begins at sunset. Others FAST the day before. I like the eating option.

Step 2- Make some Kutya. Because the holiday ties into Lent, Kutya is a vegetarian porridge dish consisting of wheat or grain sweetened with honey served along fruit, beans, or potatoes. Some people throw a big spoonful of the Kutya unto the ceiling and if it sticks, it’s a good sign of a good year to come.

Step 3- Pre-Meal Eastern Orthodox Rituals. Traditional Greetings and Responses. (“Christ is Born?” “Glorify Him!”) And then making “honey shaped crosses” on guests foreheads. Uhhh, can you say acne break out? Some eat honey mixed with garlic to symbolize life’s sweetness and sorrow. (Passover, anyone?)

Step 4- Go to Church. Until 2 or 3 in the morning. And to think us Methodist’s complain if the Baptists beat us to lunch on Sunday morning! Some families that don’t go to church sit at home and sing traditional songs and open gifts. Some folks go to church on January 7th instead of the 6th.

Step 5- Gather around the Yolka. (aka Christmas Tree) Since most ornaments are expensive, most decorations are handmade and sometimes fruit is used as well. Tasty and practical.

* Please note I read a lot of variations that different people have posted and like Christmas in America, ever family has their own customs and traditions. I read some funny ones about the men (and men only) dressing up in fake beards and putting beet juice on their faces and going out to sing Carols the neighbors. A common thread in the stories, is that “Christmas” appears to be less commercial in Russia than in the USA. More gathering with friends and family, less presents. But I love presents :0(

How will we celebrate with Baby Deetz? Will this be an opportunity to have “blended” traditions? I do love the idea about throwing the oatmeal at the ceiling! That sounds like fun. And really, the other things are the same idea, only tweaked a little. Maybe a traditional Russian meal on Christmas Eve? Hmmm….

1 comment:

  1. People here celebrate Christmas (if they do--and most do not) very quietly--with a family dinner.

    All the tradition (including Grandfather Frost, dancing around the tree, and an overnight feast) is reserved for New Year's.

    On New Years, a special food to eat is a sort of savory jello--layers of meat and vegetables arranged in clear gelatin. My friend Marina says it's best when served over hot, boiled potatoes so that the salty gelatin melts.

    It's interesting to read about what used to be--and it makes me both mad and sad that the communist party so effectively did away with the Church and all it's beliefs and celebrations. I hope, someday soon, Christmas is celebrated widely. I think it will take a few generations.