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Orthodox Christmas Day in Russia

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.

Christmas dinner table

Many people celebrate Christmas Day with a festive meal (example of festive meal only).

©iStockphoto.com/photo4u2

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.

Public Life

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.

Background

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.

Symbols

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 countries

Read more about Orthodox Christmas Day.

Orthodox Christmas Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015WedJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2016ThuJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2017SatJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2018SunJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2019MonJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2020TueJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2021ThuJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2022FriJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2023SatJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2024SunJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox
2025TueJan 7Orthodox Christmas DayNational holiday, Orthodox

We diligently research and continuously update our holiday dates and information. If you find a mistake, please let us know.

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