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City news, 06.01.2004 15:33

Christmas celebrations in Saint-Petersburg

Christmas celebrations Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. In Saint-Petersburg it will be a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration.

On this day churches throughout the country hold services. People visit their relatives or invite guests. Young girls begin two-week fortune-telling hoping to see their future husband. For many Russians, the beginning of the Christmas celebration marks the end of a 40-day fast during which Orthodox believers avoid meat, alcohol, and dairy products. Today also marks the start of the so-called "svyatki," the holy week leading up to the celebration of Christ's christening.

Russians began to openly celebrate Christmas only recently. During Soviet times, Christmas celebrations were banned and New Year's became the main winter holiday -- with the fir tree, presents, and other traditional Christmas customs becoming a part of New Year's celebrations instead.

(c) 2000