Here is the story of our Christmasjorney from Russia. Many thanks to Ingrid for the translations.
Since in Russia the Church is Russian-orthodox a 40-days-long fasting takes place before Christmas similar to ours before Easter.
Christmas Eve in Russia is on January 6th and is named „Sochelnik“. The word has its origin from the old-Russian „Sochivo“ – a ritual old-Russian meal of wheat and other grains, which was prepared for important occasions in Old-Russia.
Sochivo is traditionally made of wheat but also of other grains, depending on the wealth of the family, later in the 20th century made of rice. Recipes from the 19th century sometimes include raisins which we left out. Another old tradition is known: add one bean to the pot of Sochivo. Whoever finds this bean in his portion Sochivo will have luck in the new year. Let‘s see who finds it.
The most important part of Christmas Eve in Russia is the church service, lasting for hours. Only after that one can sit down at the table. Sochelnik / Christmas is celebrated with the family.
On Christmas Eve old-Russians placed some hay underneath the table (sometimes even on the table under the table cloth) as a symbol for the crib. On the table candles and Christmas dishes were placed – altogether it should be 12 dishes – the number of apostles of Jesus.
On January 7th the table is set abundantly. All the best food in stock is placed on the table: very Russian appetizers: fish and meat in aspic,blini and pirogi, piglet filled with buckwheat cream, goose and duck with apples or cabbage, rabbit in sour cream, leg of lamb; from the pig: boiled ham, sausages; and pies, pickles, pastries and sweets.
At dusk after the festive church service „when the first star appears in the sky“, Christ is celebrated. The tradition to decorate the Christmas tree arrived in Russia from Germany. Originally only children from Russian peasants received presents for Christmas: sweets and self-made toys. They were put under the child’s pillow during the night of January 7th. Late after the Christmas tree has become a tradition the presents were placed underneath the tree.