“There are many interesting events during the Christmastide. Traditionally Russians have kept a 40-day fast before Christmas. On Christmas Eve they’ve prepared a delicious meal known as ‘kutia.’ It’s a porridge made of wheat or barley and mixed with honey. Today, people use rice and dried fruits to cook this dish. On the night of Christmas it was habitual to visit the relatives and neighbors, to eat kutia and sing carols. Young girls would also arrange fortune-telling nights.”
The interlocutor has visited Russia multiple times, and due to her frequent visits, she has become close friends with a particular native Russian. The folklore that she has shared with me is derived from her native Russian friend. The interlocutor has not celebrated a holiday in Russia, but she has heard of the laborious preparation for holidays such as Christmas. Some particularly Christian families participate in the 40 day long fast, while other religious families fast for as little as three days. She also relayed her desire to celebrate Christmas in Russia because of the communal aspects of the holiday, and while she experiences similar communal practices in America, she wishes to eat the kutia and participate in the various Christmas time activities that are unique to Russia.
The fast before Christmas appears relate to the Nativity fast that most Christian and Orthodox people participate in. This serves as preparation, mental, spiritual, and physical, for the birth of Christ, especially as one is meant to revere his birth. The varying amounts of time in which families fast illustrate that religion and adherence to it is not universal. The kutia mentioned also obtains religious significance through its ingredients. The wheat relates to bread, or the body of Christ, and the honey and fruit relate to fertility and the resurgence of life. It is by way of this dessert that religious Russians are able to celebrate their religion during a particularly holy time of the year.