Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Take a Break: Russian Christmas History/Cut Tree & Ballerina Snowflakes

This December, the Wednesday “take a breaks” will be about celebrating the Russian holiday season.

Not only do customs and traditions vary throughout Russia, but significant alterations where made during the Soviet era. Thanks to the influence of the Tsar, Peter the Great and his travels to Europe,  Christmas was celebrated in Russia on December 25, complete with Christmas trees, gifts and even St. Nicholas. After the 1917 Revolution, along with other religious holidays, Christmas was banned. While the religious aspects of the holiday would not reappear again until 1992, with the fall of communism, in the 1930s, Stalin thought it would create a more stable society by having rituals and traditions.

Father Frost and Snow Maiden
Reinstating many of the folk customs, the focus was on New Years and not Christmas. Instead of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, Ded Moroz, Father Frost, who is often accompanied by his granddaughter and helper Snegurochka, Snow Maiden, brings the presents on New Years Eve. The tree, complete with decorations, lights and stars, is also reserved for New Years.

The Christmas season begins November 28 and goes until January 6. All dates are given according to the Old Style calendar used by the Russian Orthodox Church, which is 13 days later than the secular calendar. The official Christmas and New Years holiday in Russia lasts from Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve) to January 10 but some Russians are now observing Christmas on December 25.  Learn more by watching the two part series How to Celebrate Russian Christmas. 

                                                                 Try the following projects

Paper Tree: This is from Finland, which is very close to Russia. After you’ve printed your tree pattern, cut in half, using the guide lines at the top and bottom lengthwise. Fold two sheets of 81/2 X 11 paper lengthwise. On the folds, line up the template and hold in place with paper clips. While the directions call for sewing the two trees together, tape will also work.

• Snowflake Ballerinas : Sugar Plum fairies ala "The Nutcracker. 

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