Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas in Russia By: Stephanie Burkhart

Growing up, I always considered myself a bit of a history buff, so I took all the history classes high school had to offer. My favorite? Russian History.

Heck, I still have my Russian History book from that class 27 years later. You couldn't pay me to throw it out.

I can't begin to explain how deeply the story of Nicholas II and his family rocked me, but it did. It ripped at my heart that his son, Alexi, suffered from hemophilia and that his four beautiful daughters were assassinated. My Russian history class kindled a love for Russia that even I don't understand, but I embrace.  I was so moved by Alexi's story, I began donating blood at the age of 17.  I didn't understand my "drive" to do that, but I accepted it early on.  (Sadly, I can no longer donate and it really makes me mad. I was stationed in Germany in 1996 when England had an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease. Because of this, I'm automatically disqualified from giving blood.)

If you're a Coast to Coast AM listener and give merit to reincarnation, then the best way I can explain my passion for Nicholas' story is that it a strong echo of a past life lived.

According to legend, St. Andrew came to Kiev during his travels in preaching Jesus' message. With the Byzantine Empire on its doorstop, Russia adopted Orthodoxy as its faith. The Russian people believe in Jesus Christ and Mary. Beautiful monasteries began to develop in the 10th Century, providing a place for spiritual worship and major centers of education.

In the 11th Century, Russian Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople and was baptized. He heard stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra and when he returned to Russia, he retold the stories. St. Nicholas became very popular in Russia.

Prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917, Russia celebrated Christmas on 25 DEC with gifts, trees, and St. Nicholas. After the Soviets took over, they moved the holiday celebration to New Year's Eve. St. Nicholas became Grandfather Frost.

With the fall of Communism, Christmas is celebrated again in Russia, but not to the extend it once had. Also, the main date is now 7 JAN as there's a difference in the western/eastern Orthodox calendar.

On Christmas Eve, it's custom to fast before mass. The meal is meatless and kutya, a porridge made of wheat, honey, and poppy seeds, is part of he main meal meant to symbolize happiness, hope, and success.

Feedback: I'd love to hear about Christmas around the world. If you have a second, feel free to share customs and traditions from places you've visited or lived. What are your favorite traditions? Do you have a favorite food you like to cook?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. Her Christmas story, The Faberge Secret is on sale on Amazon and on other Internet stores.
In this excerpt, Dimitri shares what his Christmas is like with Elise.


"Why do you celebrate on January seventh?"

"Orthodoxy follows the Julian calendar. We're several days behind the Gregorian one."

"Ah. So... do you mind if I ask how you celebrate? I mean, do you have Christmas trees?

Dimitri chuckled. "Well, during the Soviet years, we did not officially celebrate. That
was hard for my parents. In 1992, the government allowed open celebrations of Christmas. My sister and I are still trying to find our traditions."

"You have a sister?"

"Elena. She's a news anchor for a TV station in St. Petersburg. We both live in apartments, so we go to the family's estate on Nevsky Prospect in Dolchina for Christmas."

"What about your parents?"

"My father has passed, and my mother is old -- we have her in a nursing home. They take good care of her. She joins us at Dolchina for the holidays."

"That's thoughtful."

"Elena and I try hard to spend time with her, but our schedules are busy."

"Does anyone else join you?"

"My cousin, Alexi, on occasion -- if he doesn't have to work."

"What does he do?"

"He's a detective for the St. Petersburg police."

"My brother is a police officer, too."

"For your city? Brattleboro?"


"I Googled it on my phone after you left. It's a small town about two hours away, on the
New Hampshire-Massachusetts border." "I'm honored."

"I must admit, Elise, I enjoyed our accidental meeting."

Elise's cheeks prickled at the compliment. Uncomfortably warm, she glanced out the window.

Dimitri reached out and curved his fingers around her chin. "I mean it, Elise. You are beautiful." His eyes smoldered with desire.

"Thank you."

Slowly, he withdrew his slender, yet masculine fingers from her face. "Last year, Elena, Mama, and Alexi celebrated at Dolchina with me. We shared an evening meal of kutya -- a porridge made from grains, honey, and poppy seeds -- on the sixth. Mama uses a white tablecloth on our table. She says it is a symbol of Christ's poverty. Then we place a white candle on the table to remind us that Christ is the light of the world. The meal itself is a full ritual."

"Tell me more."

"Since I am the head of the family, I usually lead us in the Lord's Prayer. My mother blesses everyone on the forehead with honey, making the Sign of the Cross. We eat bread called 'pagach', and dip it in honey and garlic. After we are done, we attend midnight mass."

The waiter returned with their meal.


5 Stars, Reader's Favorites
Fabulously written, the story combines elements of mystery, action, love, and tender family moments all at the right places, making a perfect fit. If you want a good story combining history, crime, and passion, "The Faberge Secret" is the book for you.

BLURB: When Elise finds a rare Faberge Egg, can Dimitri keep her safe from her rival?







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