Often Russian Christmas and Russian New Years is combined into a long winter celebration. January 7 through January 19 mark the dates for Russian Christmastide or Svyatki. But, celebrating the New Year is more of an important holiday in Russia than Christmas and is recognized on January 1. After Russia changed from the Julian calendar and began to recognize the Gregorian calendar followed by the West, they have two New Year celebrations and often choose to celebrate both on January 1 and January 14, Russia's "old New Year" with Russian Christmas falling on January 7.
If you have adopted a child from Russia, here are seven ideas on how to share a bit of a Russian Christmas or a Russian New Year through traditions.
Share Popular Russian Folktales
Some characters include the Russian Santa Clause, Ded Moroz or Father Frost and his granddaughter, Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden. Together the two deliver gifts to good children around Russia. Ded Moroz lives in Veliky Ustyug in an estate where Russian children can write him letters outlining their requests. Like Santa, he too does parades and visits large Russian cities. Ded Moroz and Sengurochka make their journey on December 31 placing presents under the New Year's Tree.
Bake Krendel to Share
Kendel is the "preferred Christmas bread" in Russia. Try your hand at baking the Russian Christmas bread and sharing it with neighbors or friends.
Light a Bonfire
Since the Russian Christmas is celebrated during the bitterly, cold Russian winter the lighting of fires seems appropriate and is an old Slavic tradition. Find a place to have your own bonfire with your children and enjoy time singing carols. If you don't know of any place to legally hold a bonfire, then light a fire in the fireplace in honor of this Sviatki tradition.
How About Some Fortune Telling?
Fortune telling is an old Christmastide tradition. It is still practiced today for fun. This may be another fun way to bring a bit of Russian tradition into your family. If fortune telling doesn't fit well with your core belief system, then consider putting a spin on this activity. One idea: have each child make a list of three to five questions about their futures that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Such as, "Will I be rich one day?" or "Will I sunbathe on the moon before I'm forty?" Then pass around a Magic Eight Ball for the answers. Remind the children that it's all for fun and nothing serious or true.
Sing Some Songs Together
Caroling is also a common way of celebrating Russian Christmastide. This activity is also common in most Christmas traditions so would be an easy and fun tradition to add to your family.
Share a Big Meal and Spend Quiet Time as a Family
January 14th marks the "Old New Year" in Russia and is spent much quieter than the firework display on December 31st. Spend this evening with your children. Consider retelling their adoption story and sharing Russian folktales.
Have Ded Moroz and Sengurochka Pay the Kids a Visit
If Santa traditionally visited your home on Christmas Eve, why not have your children get another gift from Ded Moroz and Sengurochka on New Year's Eve? Perhaps the Russian winter duo remembered your children from the orphanage and made a special trip to the States just for them?