My Russian Christmas Traditions

By Sasha Stremlow, Staff Writer

From the time I was a baby, up until 3 years ago, when January 4th,5th and 6th rolled around, I would get excited because I knew that soon I’d be eating food and celebrating Russian Orthodox Christian Christmas with my family and friends. At the same time, I’d also dread it because I’d have to wake up early and attend church from midnight until about noon, singing and saying prayers to God as a sacrifice.

My first memories of this event was when I was about 10 years old. I remember being already being asleep, but being woken up to get ready for church. The thing that stood out about being in church was seeing tons of candles lit everywhere; on tables, candle stands, as well as people were holding them. (Thinking back, it kind of feels like it was a fire hazard). My family and friends were there, and I was thrilled, and yet overwhelmed at seeing everything for the first time.

When I was younger, I would almost always be excited to attend this special service, but when I turned 10, I lost a lot of my excitement for this tradition. My mom wanted me to start singing in the choir, which I didn’t want to do, but she made  me do it anyway. I sang not only at Christmas time, but also every time we went to church, which got to be boring and repetitive, and took some of the excitement away from the Christmas service. 

As part of the choir, I would spend the Christmas service standing for the entire 12 hours. The standing is pretty easy in the beginning because, obviously, you have more energy when you first start, but when you hit the halfway mark it becomes so tiring that most elders and kids start sitting down and going to sleep. 

When I stood for that long I would space out and end up only pretending to sing because I’d lose my voice halfway through. I also started finding excuses to leave in the middle of service, sometimes my sister would come up to me and tell me something I needed to do and we would go downstairs and much mess around for 30 minutes. We would do that about every 2 hours.

When it came closer to the end of the service though and I could start seeing light at the end of the tunnel, I would start to get excited because I knew the food was next. 

This was my favorite part because it’s when everyone sits together and eats food and I’d get to eat my favorite Russian cuisine. When everyone sat together eating food, I’d feel a sense of community and bonding.

For both good and bad, the past couple years my family hasn’t really participated in this tradition as much as we used to because everyone is so busy and aren’t as passionate about it anymore. I know my mom wishes that we could do it still, and that our family would  embrace our culture, but sometimes traditions like these just don’t last. 

I still believe that Russian Christmas is a big part of who I am, and while I’m a little  sad that I don’t attend anymore, I do have many fond memories I know will always stay with me.

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