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Christmas Day in Russia marks the birth of Jesus Christ in the Christian Orthodox tradition. Although banned during the Soviet times, Christmas is now regaining its popularity and religious meaning in Russia.
Is Orthodox Christmas Day a Public Holiday?
Orthodox Christmas Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.
What Do People Do?
People in Russia celebrate Christmas Day with activities such as having a family dinner, attending a Christmas liturgy and visiting relatives and friends. There is a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas Day, when practicing Christians do not eat any meat. The Lent period ends with the first star in the night sky on January 6 – a symbol of Jesus Christ's birth. Many Orthodox Christians go to the church to attend a Christmas liturgy that evening.
The first star also signals the start of the Christmas dinner. For many secular Russians, Christmas Day is a family holiday but it is not as important, for many families, as New Year's Day. Many people visit friends and relatives, as well as give and receive presents, on January 7. Prior to Christmas Day, there is Christmas Eve, which marks the start of an old Slavic holiday, Svyatki, in which young women used a mirror and candles to invoke the image of their future husbands. Like going to church, fortune-telling on Christmas Eve is again becoming popular in Russia.
Orthodox Christmas is a national holiday in Russia so banks and public offices are closed on January 7. If Christmas Day falls on a weekend, the non-labor day moves to the following Monday. Russian authorities may sometimes declare a national vacation from January 1 to 10 due to the close proximity of New Year's holidays (January 1-5), Christmas and the weekends between these two holidays.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks banned Christmas celebrations. Many Christmas traditions, such as decorating a fir tree and giving presents, turned into New Year's traditions. Christmas became an official holiday and a non-labor day in Russia in 1991. It began regaining popularity only recently, partially because Russian leaders, starting with Vladimir Putin, annually attend a Christmas liturgy. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates religious holidays according to the Julian calendar. Russia uses the Gregorian calendar for secular purposes since 1918.
The common symbols of Orthodox Christmas are a decorated fir tree, a star (such as the first star in the sky or the star on top of the Christmas tree) and baby Jesus.
About Orthodox Christmas Day in other countriesRead more about Orthodox Christmas Day.
Orthodox Christmas Day Observances
|2015||Wed||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2016||Thu||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2017||Sat||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2018||Sun||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2019||Mon||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2020||Tue||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2021||Thu||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2022||Fri||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2023||Sat||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2024||Sun||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|2025||Tue||Jan 7||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
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