History and traditions of the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Common beliefs, omens, Christmas fortune telling.
Christmas traditions are a solemn service in the church, a family dinner at a generously set table, funny jokes of carols, gifts and, of course, fortune-telling. Even if a person has a very indirect relationship to Christianity, all this is probably familiar to him thanks to Russian literature, television programs and childhood memories. And if not, soon you will have a great chance to join the customs of a bright holiday and bring a little more joy into your life. What do you need to know to meet him properly?
The story of the Nativity of Christ
According to legend, one of the main holidays of Christians, with which perhaps only Easter can compete in significance, traces its history back to the very night when Jesus Christ, the future Savior of the World, was born on the outskirts of Bethlehem in a manger for feeding cattle. His birth was announced by an eight-pointed star that rose in the east and called the three wise men on the way.
However, in fact, the sacred texts do not contain a direct indication of the date of birth of Jesus. Only the Apostolic decrees, the authorship of which has not been unequivocally established so far, instruct parishioners to celebrate the Nativity of Christ on the 25th day of the tenth month. But since they were created much later than the tragic events in Jerusalem (some versions, more than three hundred years later), there is no firm reason to believe that the named number corresponds to reality.
Moreover, until the middle of the 4th century, the date, traditions and customs of Christmas were interpreted by Christians of different nationalities quite freely and did not always coincide with each other. The discrepancies were ended only during the reign of Pope Julius the First, who finally approved the date of December 25 for the holiday.
Moreover, the main task was not to establish the exact number, but to unite the believers, giving them a common reason for joy, and remind them of the significance of the sacred event - the birth of the Son of God. At the same time, the goal was to distract yesterday's pagans from their cults: on December 25, the feast of Mithra, revered in the east, fell, and it was not in vain that the Roman Church hoped that over time the honors rendered to him would pass to Christ.
Much later, something similar happened in Russia, when Orthodox holidays were shifted along the calendar grid in order to combine them with pagan festivities. Say, and the wolves are fed, and the sheep are safe - have fun, since you are used to it, but remember that you are doing this for the glory of the new God. Merry Christmas turned out to be especially successful, since it was at the end of December and beginning of January that most of the Slavic peoples honored the Sun, performing many rituals, games and other magical actions.
Their echoes are still heard in bizarre carols, fortune-telling, ancient signs for Christmas.
Although Catholics still celebrate the significant date on December 25, Christmas traditions in Russia associate this day with January 7. It's all about the difference between the Gregorian calendar, according to which Catholics conduct their calculations, and the Julian calendar, which is the choice of the Orthodox. By the way, in secular life we also use the Gregorian calendar.
Note! The Julian system of chronology remains in honor not only of the Russian Orthodox Church, but also of the Georgian, Jerusalem and Serbian. In addition, the Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches adhere to its calculations.
The traditions of Christmas in Russia have been taking shape for several centuries. And although the October Revolution for a long time transferred religious holidays to a semi-legal position, the old customs were not forgotten.On the contrary, today many are trying to revive them: some - out of religious motives, others - out of love for history, and still others - out of curiosity.
Preparing for a feast
According to tradition, before Christmas it was supposed to do a general cleaning, so a few days before the celebration, all the women in the house were involved in work: they carefully swept dust and cobwebs from the corners, knocked out rugs and pillows, scrubbed tables, whitewashed and painted the stove again. Special attention was paid to the red corner with the icon, which was decorated with a clean towel and a burning icon lamp. Men, too, did not sit idle, putting things in order in the barn and other outbuildings.
Since the Christmas fast ended on January 6, the table was supposed to be bursting with food in the evening. In order to have time to cook the 12 lenten dishes laid down according to the custom, on the day of the holiday, the hostesses got up at the first hour of the night, took water in the dark, melted the stove with 7 or 12 logs and started cooking. Moreover, whatever the other dishes were, crumbly porridge-sochivo (kutia) sweetened with honey and raisins and a drink made from dried fruits (uzvar) became invariable attributes of the feast.
On January 6, it was supposed to do without food, until the first star, which was associated with "the same" Bethlehem, was lit in the sky, and only the smallest family members were allowed to have a snack of boiled potatoes until evening.
In addition to lean dishes, they also cooked meatless ones: baked piglets, sausages, jellied meat, sauerkraut cabbage soup, fish, cabbage rolls, dumplings, dumplings, pancakes, pies with different fillings and sweets. True, they saved the meat dishes for the morning to taste them after returning from the church, and at dinner they preferred cereals, vegetables and fish. In addition, red wine was served at the table and presents brought by relatives and friends at home were displayed.
Note! For the holiday of Christmas, traditions prescribe to give edible gifts made with your own hands: pickles and jams, kulebyaki and kurniki, lollipops from burnt sugar and candies from dried fruits.
Meeting the holiday
They also tried to make the number of eaters equal to 12 or at least even. If at the last moment an unexpected visitor appeared, he was received with joy, but two additional devices were put on the table at once - for a new guest and for a couple.
However, since the holiday was considered a family one, unexpected visitors on such an evening were rare. According to folk tradition, Christmas was supposed to be celebrated in silence, prayer and pious reflections, which did not go well with crowded gatherings.
After that, when the first star lit up in the sky, and the believers cheered themselves up with a glass or two of red wine, the fun began. Young people took to the streets, caroling, singing songs, rolling from the snowy mountains, rushing around the village in a sleigh, throwing snowballs and launching fire crackers into the sky.
Representatives of the older generation celebrated the holiday at home, waiting for the carols and noting who would be the first to cross the threshold: if a man - to be a good year, if a woman - ailments and problems cannot be avoided.
If the past year was filled with troubles, take a bucket of water, whisper into it about everything that happened, and then take the bucket out of the gate and throw it away from the house. The ancestors believed: where the water is, there is misfortune.
Signs and customs
Of course, many of the old customs have become a thing of the past, and even believers sometimes do not observe them with the thoroughness that was characteristic of our ancestors. And yet the warm, homely, light traditions of the Nativity of Christ give the holiday a special charm and set the soul in the right mood. If you want to pay tribute to them, do it boldly, the holiday will be a success.
The main signs-customs of Christmas:
- Celebrate the holiday in new clothes so that you can wear new clothes all year round;
- Donate money to charity in order not to know the need;
- Before dinner, open all the doors and windows for a short time so that the bright holiday can enter the house;
- Sitting at the table, blow on the bench, so as not to inadvertently crush and anger the soul of a deceased relative that has looked at the light;
- Taste a little of each dish in order to be full and satisfied all year round, but at the same time not to overeat, so as not to become heavy and not to miss the festivities;
- Do not argue or raise your voice during a conversation in order to be in harmony with everyone;
- To welcome uninvited guests, and especially the lonely and disadvantaged, so that the year will pass happily;
- After the feast, send the younger family members with gifts to grandparents so that pure children's souls bring goodness to their home.
Note! Losing something on Christmas night is considered a bad sign. But finding a lost thing or picking up something valuable dropped by an unknown owner is an extremely favorable omen.
Strictly speaking, fortune-telling is not really a Christmas tradition, since the Church has always urged its parishioners to refrain from trying in any way to penetrate into the future. However, in this case, pagan customs became so closely intertwined with the ideas of the new faith that they became practically part of it. And how could you resist the temptation? After all, it was believed that on the night of Christmas the gates between heaven and earth are thrown open, and therefore each person has a chance to receive a hint for the future from higher powers: what to strive for, what to fear, what to hope for …
Divination for the fulfillment of wishes
On New Years and Christmas, all of us - believers and atheists, cynics and romantics, adults and children - want to believe in miracles. So why not use the right moment and tell yourself something good? Like that:
- Holy water. Exactly at midnight, drink a glass of holy water, make a cherished wish, and then go to bed in complete silence. And most importantly, firmly believe that it will certainly come true.
- Burning candle. At 7 pm, take a burning candle and, thinking about your desire, go around all the rooms in the house in a clockwise direction. If the candle remains lit, the wish will come true, if not, you will have to wait until next year.
- Scattering circles. Take a deep cup, fill it with clean water and hold a small pebble in your hand. Sit for a few minutes, mentally concentrating on your desire, and then throw a stone into a cup and try to count the circles that will scatter in the water. An even number is interpreted as "yes", an odd number - "no".
One of the most popular questions that they are trying to clarify with the help of fortune-telling at Christmas is what to expect from a hazy future. Happiness? Problems? To try and figure it out, you need:
- Wax and milk. Collect the ends of white candles in a tin container, melt over a fire and pour into cold milk or water. And then turn on your fantasy at full power and try to discern in the outlines of the resulting figure a hint of future events.
- Ice patterns. Put a saucer filled with water on the porch or windowsill, and in the morning check how the ice that has set during the night has turned out. Smooth - life will be pleasant and smooth, wavy - from time to time it will shake "on bumps", with a dent in the center - serious difficulties are coming.
- Burnt paper. Crumple a sheet of thick paper so that you get a loose lump, place it on a saucer and light it. Place the burnt ash between the candle and the wall so that you can clearly see its shadow. Now slowly rotate the saucer, peering into the outline of the shadow. Will you be able to see something interesting in her? The cross is considered a sign of illness, a flower is a wedding, an animal is a symbol of the enemy, a human figure is an image of a friend, stripes are a hint of a quick road, and small drops and stars are a promise of good luck.
Divination by the betrothed
It must have been not only on Christmas that fortune-telling about the betrothed excited the minds and hearts of our great-great-grandmothers. There is no doubt that the ancient Slavs asked the higher powers about him long before Christianity came to their lands.Therefore, fortune-telling remained visible and invisible:
- On a towel. Before you go to bed, hang out a clean white towel outside the window with the words: "The betrothed-mummer, come and shake himself down." If it turns out to be wet in the morning, a meeting with your beloved is not far off. If it turns out to be dry, the prince will be delayed on the way for another year.
- On the ridge. Hang a clean-washed comb in a secluded place in the yard and invite the betrothed to come combing. A hair that was found on the teeth on the morning of January 7 will be a sure sign of a close romantic meeting.
- On the dough. Invite unmarried girlfriends to visit, knead the yeast dough - each in its own bowl, but from the same products - cover with a clean towel and set to come. Whoever dough rises earlier than others, the first to go down the aisle.
- On the mirrors. This is one of the most famous fortune-telling at Christmas at home, described many times in the literature, but just in case, we recall the procedure for the uninformed. Place two mirrors opposite each other to create a long corridor of reflections. Place two burning candles between them, sit down, holding one of the mirrors with your hands, and peer into the depths of the corridor, saying: "Costumed-betrothed, come to me for supper." If you have the patience to watch long enough, there is a chance to see the image of the future lover. Just do not forget to say after this: "Chur me!", So as not to become a victim of the tricks of evil spirits.
- On the straw. Roll a ball out of straw, place it on the floor, cover with a frying pan and step on it. In the old days, it was believed that in the crunch of breaking straws one could discern the name of the future husband, so keep your ears on top of your head.
- In the name of a passerby. If you are bored with home fortune-telling for Christmas, go out with your girlfriends and take turns asking the men you meet for their names. What name will sound in response, so will the name of the bridegroom who asked.
- On the barking of a dog. Stick a knife into a snowdrift several times, saying: "What kind of husband will I get, will I have to cry or laugh?" Voiced and cheerful, promises a husband with a light character, angry and twitchy - obese and stern. But the howl of a dog predicts early widowhood. In addition, in the direction from which the barking was heard, one can judge in which direction the betrothed lives.
- On the shoe. Remove a shoe or boot from your left foot and throw it outside the gate. Point your toe away from home, prepare your dowry; will turn to the gate - another year to live in the old place with his parents.
- On the fence. Close your eyes and spread your arms wide, walk up to the fence and grab several bars at once, and then open your eyes and count them. A paired number promises a new love, an unpaired one - another year in anticipation of the prince.
Note! To get a correct prediction, fortune-telling is supposed to be done by removing the belt, rings, bracelets and other "encircling" jewelry, as well as loosening the hair.
Fortune telling on a newborn
Married couples also had something to ask fate about. Naturally, first of all, young spouses were interested in whether children would appear in their house, and who should be expected earlier - a boy or a girl? They figured it out like this:
- On bread. Round bread was placed in the center of the table, and one of the spouses was blindfolded, given a knife in his hands and offered to cut off a piece. If the blade stuck in the middle of the bread, a boy was expected; hit the edge - a girl; and missed, bypassing the baking, they concluded that this year it was too early to think about the heirs.
- On the ring. The wedding ring was hung from the wife's hair and slowly lowered next to the husband's hand. If it began to sway from side to side, the omen predicted the birth of a boy, if it described circles - girls, and if it remained motionless, the birth of a child was expected next year.
How Christmas is celebrated - watch the video:
The history of Christmas traditions is rooted in antiquity.Neither historians, nor ethnographers, nor religious scholars today can say with certainty what was the root cause of this or that custom. And is it really that important? A bright holiday awaits us - another chance to sit with family at a common table, spend time with friends, unwind a little, think about good things and even believe in miracles for a while. We use it to the fullest! Who knows, suddenly a magical Christmas night will really be the beginning of something new and wonderful?