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In old times in Russia people used to say "winter starts on frosts - muzhik (a peasant) starts on holidays". And, "summer is for efforts - winter is for festivals". Russian people liked to and knew how to amuse themselves during cold winter days and nights after their hard working summer.

Now in large cities old Russian winter holidays have faded or changed. But it is still hardly possible to name other so cheerful festivals, as the New year and days of Christmas.

In old days these merry holidays were proceded by yule-tide and now not many people are well aware of it's customs and traditions. Young girls were occupied then with fortune-telling, they left for a gate and asked a name of the first passer-by. There existed a popular belief, that the future groom will have the same name. And, many other means of fortune-telling were known to them also.

Obligatory christmas amusements were masquerades, carnivals, maskers, open-air merrymaking, dancings and, of course, Christmas trees at home and children's holidays with long-awaited gifts.

The New Year Day was an innovation of the Russian tzar Peter the Great, who promulgated the decree: new year in Russia to consider not since September 1, as earlier, but since January 1. Peter the Great commanded to mark this holiday with festively decorated fir-tree.

Christmas Russian people celebrate not in the end of December, but January, 7. It is because of the using by Orthodox Russian church the different calendar.

The difference in Christmas celebrations stretches back to 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII ruled the Catholic Church should follow a new calendar called the Gregorian calendar, more in sync with the sun than the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar was established by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.

Because it was the pope who ruled on it, many churches not in sync with the Vatican ignored it, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox among them. Protestants accepted the new calendar in the early 1700s.

In 1922, the patriarch of Constantinople decided to follow the new Gregorian calendar in observance of Christmas, but not for Easter. His lead was followed by many other Orthodox churches.

Orthodox churches that observe the Jan. 7 date are the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian churches, the Serbs and the Mt. Athos monks in Greece.


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