4. Russia: Christmas Eve fast and feast
Russians fast from food during daylight on Christmas Eve in anticipation of the arrival of Christmas. Christmas Eve in Russia can have as few as six hours of daylight. When the first star appears in the sky, they have a feast to celebrate the appearance of the star that led the wise men to Jesus.
Russian Christians call the Christmas Eve meal “The Holy Supper.” Families eat together, with the father opening the meal by praying The Lord’s Prayer, then thanking God for His blessings in the past year and his provision in the new.
The meal’s components hold deep meaning. Russians eat porridge with grains, honey and poppy seeds that represent hope, happiness and peace. A white tablecloth represents Christ’s swaddling clothes. The table displays hay to represent the stable where Jesus was born and a tall white candle to show how He gives light to the world. The bread at the meal reminds believers that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Russians dip the bread in honey and chopped garlic to represent the sweetness and bitterness of life.