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The Presidential Library’s collections present Christmas traditions

7 January 2019

“The Russian soul rests and rejoices on the church holiday, and it is good for those whom pious parents have taught to honor the holiday since childhood, to wait with joyful feeling and enjoy it with refreshing and elevating power”, - wrote the Holy Synod Ober Prosecutor in 1893 in the Feast of God edition.

The history of the New Year and Christmas holidays is represented by the Presidential Library in the collection "New Year and Christmas in Russia". The portal features rare secular and church books that reveal the history of one of the main Christian holidays - the Nativity of Christ, including such publications as “The Nativity of Christ: Service for the Nativity Festivity, Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ”, “Patron Saint’s Day and other holidays in Irkutsk churches", "Christmas" and others.

The appearance of the Savior on the light was a miracle, for which people needed time to realize. Gradually, the traditions of celebrating this day full of some kind of joy were formed. On Christmas Eve it was believed that it was impossible to eat until the first star appeared - this is due to the legend about the appearance of the Bethlehem star, which announced the birth of Christ.

"On Christmas Eve, called the Twelve Night, no one ate until the star appeared, and the rules were strictly kept in the last century", - it is described in the book by Ivan Bozheryanov "How Russian people celebrated and celebrate Russian Christmas, New Year, Christianization and Carnival" The author in this regard tells the story that has become a legend: “Invited to the dinner table on Christmas Eve by Empress Catherine II famous A.V. Suvorov, known for his piety, also did not eat anything. A caring hostess assured Suvorov that the table had fish. Dinner at that time was early, before the appearance of the star. There were guesses that Suvorov is fasting, waiting for the heavenly messenger. The Empress whispered to the camera-lackey who was standing behind her, and at that very same minute they brought on a golden platter, from Her Majesty's own dress, a diamond star of St.. Alexander Nevsky. The empress granted her hero, saying:

- Do you see a star? So you can eat now!

The prince Potemkin, who was here, exclaimed: "So let thy light be made clear among the men!"

Bogheryanov places particular emphasis on the Orthodox’s concern about affirming sobriety in the way of life: “Young women were not brought wine, they themselves often went out to the hostess to drink kwas, there the hostess served them one-year-old honey at the table, non-drinkers were taken as important persons and accompanied with honor".

An essential attribute of the Christmas holidays was the spruce, the custom of dressing up and having fun around her was brought from Europe by Peter the Great. There is also a very sad “Merry Christmas!” postcard of the World War I in the Presidential Library’s collections, associated with spruce, or rather, with the inaccessibility of a warm, beautiful holiday: in the foreground of the postcard sits a couple of soldiers with rifles in a snow-drenched trench. On the left, a white angel anchorage, transcribed by the artist, each with a small New Year tree in their hands...

Feelings experienced by an adult, recalling the family celebration of his childhood, is reflected by the poem in A. F. Koni's prose “Christmas Eve”.

The Presidential Library’s collections also contain stories on the theme of the Nativity of Christ. Christmas stories are widely featured in the book From Christmas to Easter.

The theme of Christmas and the joy of life associated with the arrival of the Savior is inexhaustible, because, according to the book of Ivan Bozheryanov "How Russian people celebrated and celebrate Christmas, New Year, Christianization and Carnival", "when Christ was born - the snow disappeared, the trees were decorated with leaves and flowers, the ground was covered with a grass carpet”. It also says: "The holiday of Christmas was honored as the restoration of heaven on earth".