When we are talking about the Christmas celebration, you will find that each culture will have its way of celebrating. Now we are going to learn about the Russian Christmas celebration. You may even steal everything on Russian Svyatki. So, what is Svyatki? This is the period from January 7th (Orthodox Christmas Eve) to January 19th (Epiphany). The traditional thing the Russians do during this period is they will forget about work and celebrate it as hard as they can.
The reason behind this tradition is because, at the beginning of the year, the days become longer. Ancient Russians believed that this long day was the symbol of the birth of the new year. For them, they thought that this is the period where their upcoming year was being defined. This whole thing is the reason that Svyatki is always considered as an important event.
Now we know the fact about how important the Svyatki is for Russians. So, how is the Russian Christmas celebration? You may steal everything on Russian Svyatki.
So how are the Russian celebrating their Christmas time?
- Scary Evening
The name Svyatki comes originally from the word syvatory which means holly. This is an irony because this period and a particular celebration is the most unholy and pagan time of the year. The folk legend says “God, rejoiced after his son was born, opened all the doors and let the devils out to play”. To act out to this saying, all young people are banned from work. They would divide among us who are going to act as imps and as spirits. As part of the celebration and the acting parts, guys and girls will put on scary masks. While wearing masks, they will go around the village and asking for treats.
The ones that play “the devils” will be there too. They are the ones that wear old rags, fake beards, pointed leather hats, and sing loudly while playing simple instruments. They do all of this as an act of scaring the villagers. In spite of this, you still have to welcome them and give them some treats. This is a symbol that you do reject unlucky year. The interesting part is, even after you give them some treats, they are still going to play some tricks on you when you are already in bed.
- Playing The Dead
Russians believe that during Svyatki, the dead will come to visit and have something to eat. That is why during celebrations where there are large feasts, such as Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany, the people will not clean up their table. They will let all the food there so that their deceased ancestors can enjoy some meals.
During this period, besides what they do during the scary evening, it is also popular to act out funerals. To put on the show, they will have a boy to put on some fake teeth made of a turnip with flour all over his face. That way, he will look like a dead man. Then, this boy will be tied to a bench. A fake priest then will come and hold a mock funeral service. During the service, the priest will say some prayers where there will only swear words in it. Later on, there will be a “wake ceremony” where everybody would get a slice of manure that has been dried, as a symbol of the funeral of the past year.
- Shameless Games
One part of the Svyatki is all sorts of games that will be played by the youths. Since the whole phase of this ceremony consists of bizarre or disgusting things, it very hard to find people that want to host this ceremony. That is why young people will instead look for a wooden house where they are going to play all of the games.
One of the games they are playing is the one where the girls are acting out as mares. The guys then will examine and choose them. They would kiss the mare they choose and place the mare on their knees. Another game is when a guy is going to play the role of a bull. He will put on a clay pot over his hear with real horns. This bull will butt girls below their waists. It will only stop if another guy “kills” it by breaking the pot.
Now we know how the Russian Christmas celebration is. You may steal everything on Russian Svyatki then adapt it for your traditions at home!