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Orthodox Christians celebrate their version of Christmas every year on January 7. The dramatic divergence from their western counterparts comes from a scheduling conflict, as the Russian church operates on an alternative calendar. Their Julian calendar places Christmas 13 days after December 25 on the western Gregorian version adopted by the Pope in the 16th century, meaning Orthodox observers have Christmas Eve today.
What do Orthodox Christians eat on Christmas?
Orthodox Christmas is different in more than just name and date, as it involves a set of alternative traditions.
Where western Christians often focus on spreading joy, Russian observers more intently centre the occasion on the birth of Christ and spiritual development.
The two occasions intersect when it comes to food, as Christians in both camps use Christmas for a mammoth feast.
In the west, Christmas is an excuse for observers to eat their fill of indulgent dishes.
Favourites include turkey, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, Christmas pudding, and the Yule log, its more chocolatey relative.
Members of the Orthodox Church have similar intentions and break their fast on the big day.
But the organisation’s fundamentally Russian identity means observers enjoy a few locally inspired recipes.
The Orthodox Christmas starts on January 6 – Christmas Eve – with a bowl of dried mushroom soup.
Collecting mushrooms is a longstanding tradition in Slavic nations, and they aren’t commonly available in the coldest months.
A bowl of soup on Christmas Eve provides some warmth ahead of the day itself and is considered a holiday staple.
And the smaller portion size keeps within fasting rules followed by many Orthodox Christians.
For lunch the following day, Orthodox Christians break their fast with a host of Russian dishes.
The following items often feature on menus for the savoury portion of the feast:
- Shashlik (Russian Pork Kebab)
- Devilled eggs
- Kulebyaka (Russian pie with a salmon and onion filling)
- Olivier salad
- Borscht (beet soup)
- Kvashenaya Kapusta (sauerkraut)
- Pirozhki (buns stuffed with a meat or vegetable filling)
- Golubtsi (Cabbage Rolls)
- Blini (Russian pancakes made with Chicken and Mushroom)
Desserts featured in Russian Christmas feasts are often equally indulgent as the west and include a generous helping of fruit.
The following items may feature on dessert place for Orthodox Christmas Day:
- Vzvar (fruit compote)
- Rogaliki (Russian stuffed pastry)
- Priyaniki (spiced Russian biscuits)
- Pampushky (Ukrainian doughnuts)
- Sharlotky (apple cake)
- Brined apples
- Kiev cake
- Kolyadki (Russian cookies made with curd cheese)
- Smetannik Cake
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