2 Interesting Holidays in January Keep the Season Bright!

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Do you have a case of the Holiday Blues? The month of December is jam packed with holidays. From Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanzaa to finally New Year’s Eve, it is most definitely a season of excitement. When it’s over, we can often feel sad.

But guess what?

It may be January but the celebration is still going on throughout the world. January 6 is The Day of the Three Kings and on January 7, Russians celebrate Christmas. Read on to find out about these two really awesome holiday!

The Day of the Three Kings

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When baby Jesus was born, he was visited by Three Wise Men, named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. These men traveled to Bethlehem by following a star across the desert. They travelled for twelve days and brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

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This moment is known as The Day of the Three Kings. Also known as the Epiphany, this holiday is celebrated in Spain, Latin American and also by Latinos in the United States.

When people celebrate this holiday, it involves…you guessed it—food!

In Mexico, for instance, many people eat what is known as Rosca de Reyes. It’s a sweet cake sprinkled with sugar and other sweets. And on the inside? There’s a little baby. The person who gets the baby is supposed to host a party on February 2 to celebrate Candelmas.

Need Ideas on What to Bring to a Day of the kings Celebration? Read How to make tamales like an abuela!

At an evening feast, children receive their gifts on The Day of the Three Kings as well and sing songs. Because Latin American culture is so diverse, it’s hard to pinpoint just what a typical family would eat. Here’s a few recipes that you can make in your kitchen—with the help of your kids, of course!

And while those recipes are filling your home with their sweet aromas, how about you read this book with your kids? It’s a great story about The Day of the Three Kings.

Russian Christmas

While many other parts of the world celebrate Christmas on December 25, in Russia, the holiday is celebrated on January 7!

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I found out this awesome fact while working for an international non-profit organization whose mission was to foster cross-cultural understanding through service work and cultural immersion (read: my ideal job!).

My role was to brief volunteers who were travelling to Russia on cultural norms, logistics and administrative requirements (there were a ton for traveling to Russia) and also to answer their questions about the overseas experience.

The official holiday time in Russia is from December 31st to January 10th and everything was closed! This is when I learned of the Russian Christmas celebration.

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Celebrating Christmas on January 7 is part history and part religion for Russians. During the Soviet Union Era, the celebration of Christmas in Russia was banned (along with the celebration of other religious holidays).

When I was in Russia, we visited incredibly beautiful churches with paintings on every inch of the wall and ceiling. I was heartbroken when we were told that these same churches were used for potato storage and other mundane activities. Russian Orthodox Christmas has been a public holiday in Russia since 1991, and the churches again were able to serve their spiritual purpose for the people.

Most people who celebrate Christmas in Russia follow the Eastern Orthodox Church and the “Julian” calendar is used for religious holidays rather than the “Gregorian” calendar that is the more widely used civil calendar. The Gregorian calendar was named for Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582, and the Julian calendar was proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC.

What’s for dinner at a russian christmas feast?

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This is of course, the part I’m most interested in! (And maybe you, too!) Traditionally, on Christmas Eve (January 6th), after going to church, one would return home for the “Holy Supper” which consists of 12 dishes (to account for each of the apostles). The dishes include a sweet rice (or other grain) pudding called kutya which is said to be tossed onto the ceiling, and if it sticks to the ceiling, it’s said to be good luck! (Unless you are the one to clean that ceiling, I think!)

The 12 dishes aren’t made now as they were before the Revolution in 1917. My guess is that no one has the time to prepare this amazing spread! If you’d like to read more about the 12 dishes, I enjoyed this article

Pickled foods like cabbage, beets and cucumbers are a staple, as are non-meat filled dumplings like piroshki or pirogi, mushroom soup, fish (if the family eats fish on Christmas Eve), beans, other vegetables and lots of sweet pies and cakes.

 When I traveled to Russia I was surprised by the abundance of salads in the cuisine. When we think of salads as a North American, we typically think of lettuce and tomatoes. But the salads in Russia are more like a potato salad as many of them are made with mayonnaise.

There are salads with beets, sauerkraut, and there’s a very popular salad referred to as the “Olivie” salad which is the most iconic dish for the New Year in Russia. This salad has potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, pickles, peas and can be made with salmon or even a sandwich meat like bologna.

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 In my cooking classes, I have made piroshki with my little cooks to get us in the mood to learn about Russian Christmas. The recipe takes a bit of time, and I had to stage several parts of the recipe to fit in the 45 minutes we had in class! It’s worth it, because: fried dough filled with potatoes and onions. Need I say more?

 We really enjoyed them and dipped them in a bit of ketchup, while traditionally a creamy garlic dip would be used. If you’re interested in giving it a shot with your little cooks, here’s the recipe.

 What happens on Christmas Day?

As in many cultures, the feast includes lots of meat. Traditionally, there are a lot of pork dishes, and also roast goose with apples, whole fish, venison and lamb. These were accompanied by lots of dumplings like pirogi, piroshki, pelmeni and also by casseroles, blini (gorgeous little pancakes) with lots of different fillings.

 There are lots of sweet dishes, too, like cookies, pies, cakes, biscuits with berries and honey and sweet fruity soups to sip on. There was plenty of wine and vodka and tea was served from a samovar, which is a majestic receptacle for hot beverages.

 Whew! I’m full just thinking about this menu! I’m wishing you all a Schastlivogo Rozhdestva! /shast-liv-ogo roj-dest-va/.