On January 7 the Russian Orthodox Church marks Christmas - the second most significant holiday after Easter.
According to the Orthodox Church regulations, the festivity is preceded by a long Advent that starts on November 28 and lasts for 40 days, up to January 6 inclusive.
On January 6, on Christmas Eve (Sochelnik in Russian), pious believers do not eat at all; by 10 p.m. they go to church to attend the evening and early morning services, as well as the Divine Liturgy. Only when the first star, symbolizing the Bethlehem Star, rises, is it allowed to eat some sochivo (a lenten dish made of a wheat or rice decoction with honey and fruit). The word "sochelnik" derives from the word "sochivo".
On January 7 the Orthodox believers congratulate each other on the bright holiday of Christmas and break their fast. Festival divine services take place in churches. At 4 p.m. the Great Christmas Evening Service starts at the heart of Moscow, in the Christ the Savior Church.
Rus (the ancient name for Russia) has traditionally had luxurious feasts on this day. Children visited homes with a vertep (a small box covered with colored paper, inside of which, by means of specially axis-fixed puppets, scenes from the Evangelists' stories about the Nativity of Christ were staged. Children got gifts for their performances and singing.
Christmastide follows Christmas. From January 8 to 17 one-day fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays are canceled. This is a time of a particular joy and a continuation of celebrating Christmas.
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