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On the 24th of December, while we’re feasting and giving each other presents in Germany, Russia is still ruled by a strict forty day fasting period – at least for the orthodox Christians. During this period of fasting, the consumption of animal products is forbidden. Even on “Sochelnik”, the Holy Night, nothing is eaten until the stars first shine. This is celebrated on the 6th of January. The most important event of the day is an hour-long mass with a lot of singing and beautifully illuminated processions in the late evening.

On the 7th of January, the fasting is finally over. In the morning, the Russians go to church again for early mass, and afterwards it’s time for a cosy get-together with the family. The table is neatly covered with the finest dishes. Favourites are dishes such as jellied fish, blini and pierogi. The reason why Russian Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas later is that they celebrate their holidays according to the old Julian calendar, which deviates from the Gregorian calendar by thirteen days.

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