Belarus or what is officially known as the Republic of Belarus is a landlocked country that is situated in eastern Europe. The country is bordered by Russia to the east, Poland to the west, Ukraine to the south, and Latvia, and Lithuania to the northwest. The country is the thirteenth largest in Europe and Minsk is the largest and the capital city of the country. When looking to experience your Christmas in eastern Europe then you should consider visiting Belarus.
Table of Contents
What Makes Christmas In Belarus Different?
Many people in the world are currently following the Gregorian calendar and Christmas is often celebrated on the 25th of December each year. However, when you visit Belarus, you are going to get a whole new Christmas vibe.
The Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar. In this country, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January each year. The country is one of the most diverse locations on the planet. Here you have a bunch to learn about the history, diversity, and culture. Don’t forget to enjoy some of the unique local food in Belarus as well.
A majority of the people in Belarus are Orthodox Christians. Therefore you are going to find them observing Christmas during this time of the year.
However, there are other Roman Catholics and protestants in different parts of the country. It is important to note that depending on the region that you are going to visit, you are likely to experience a varied holiday period during your visit.
Many other Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas days are usually marked as nonworking days in the country. People can choose how they want to celebrate these holidays.
P.S. If you are interested in the Christmas traditions of other European countries, check out these:
Without further ado, let’s delve deeper into the Christmas traditions and customs of Belarus!
In Belarus, there is a ritual that is done known as Kaliady. It is a folk holiday in which people go to church and they observe pagan rituals.
This ritual is unique because it combines pagan traditions and festivities into one. During this period the people organize the festivals by cooking food, preparing drinks, and enjoying their time with their fellow friends and family.
Kaliady describes the whole Christmas period hence it is not a specific day. The holiday has its roots in the pre-Christian time. It is connected to the winter solstice when the day is longer than the night. Since this holiday was popular in the ancient centuries the practice has since grown over the years. It is set between the holidays of Epiphany and Christmas.
It is one of the festivities that people come out and celebrate in large numbers. You should not be left behind during this period because you can get time to enjoy some of the unique foods and drinks in the country.
The essence of the Kaliady festival or ritual was during the pre-Christian time. It allowed people to participate in the spring fun activities and celebrate the rich harvest via numerous rituals.
During the festivities, each family served sacral suppers or Kutia as it is popularly known in the region. On the eve of Christmas day, Lenten is usually celebrated. This is known as the great Kutia and during this period different kinds of food and drinks are served to the family members and friends.
Some of the common foods during this time include:
- oatmeal kisel
- potato starch
It is a tradition to keep a straw beneath the table cloth, this is vital because of the traditional implications it plays. The family members will then pick a straw and determine who will be the longest living.
The last dish that is served during this period is kutia and it is made up of porridge with poppy seeds, honey, nuts, and raisins. According to traditional customs in Belarus, the master of the house is the first person allowed to try the kutia.
The customs of this location dictate that a spoon be put outside on a separate plate outside the house at night. This was an offering to the god of winter, Zuzia.
This is one of the most unique things about the people of Belarus. During your travel to the region, you are going to find people from different backgrounds exploring the different areas of the state.
It is a traditional practice where groups of people dress up and wander from one house to another, singing kaliady songs. The most common theme songs during this period are schchadrouki and kaliadki. The main center of attraction during this performance is usually Kaza.
Kaza is an individual who is dressed and masked like a goat. During this process, the individual usually dressed and masked like a goat will move from one place to another singing and dancing while the locals join in. The master of the house is usually required to treat the group of individuals singing and dancing with sweets and sausages.
Depending on the region that you are going to visit you might find some of the common dishes such as fried bacon, porridge with butter, and other meat dishes around the state.
Kaliady fortune telling
Kaliady is a perfect tradition for the Belarusians to enjoy some of the traditional features as well as some of the Western cultures during the Christmas holidays. The season of kaliady is used for telling fortunes and this is mostly associated with younger unmarried women.
The fortune telling is done in different ways depending on the region that you are going to visit. In some areas around the state, during the first day of kaliady, a young girl will go across the road with porridge and a piece of kutsa, and a pancake. After this process, they are going to wait for the direction from which the dogs will bark. It is then believed that her husband will take her away from her home in the same direction that the dogs barked during the process of crossing the road.
In other regions, you will find that men and women will go outside and hug a fence reaching their hands as wide as they can. During this process, if the number of poles that they have hugged is even, then it is believed that they will be a couple in the coming year.
In other parts of the country, you will find a married woman who still hides some of the items such as a ring, bread, a brush, a needle, and other smaller items. Thereafter her younger girlfriends are called in order and they will come and look for these items. The lady that finds a large bread will get a rich husband. On the other hand, the lady that finds a ring will find a handsome husband. The lady that finds the brush will get a bad-tempered husband. The last one who finds the needle means that their husband will be a tailor.
Kaliady traditions in modern societies
It is imperative to understand that the traditional customs and traditions have changed over the years. Depending on the region that you are going to visit or meet Belarusians the culture has changed over the years.
It has become difficult to observe some of the kaliady fortune-telling traditions because of urbanization. It is among the reasons why the Christian traditions are not maintained by Belarusian families.
During the Soviet era, the traditions were connected with religion and they were eradicated. During the Soviet era it was difficult for many people across the state to observe kaliady and the Christian Christmas traditions because it was highly forbidden, especially for the younger generation.
It is because of the Soviet ideologists that they tried and implemented different social values and traditions. They then substituted Christmas with their new atheist new year. In this era, it is no longer Svyaty Nikolaj or St. Nicolas who brings presents to the children but the Dzed Maroz or daddy frost.
However, in some of the Belarusian societies across the globe, they are beginning to observe Christmas traditions and they can watch them on television as well.
Kalyadavanne in the current era
In the modern era in Belarus among other countries across Europe, the Belarusian families are known to observe different kaliady traditions and customs.
In many parts across the state as well as Belarusians living in different parts across the globe kaliady is observed just like the twelve days of Christmas in other European nations. It will begin covering two Christmas celebrations and the New Year.
The holiday begins on Christmas Eve and you will find Christians in different areas around the state can celebrate Christmas on the 25th just like other Western nations. The middle of kaliady features New Year traditions and on the 7th of January the people in different locations celebrate Orthodox Christmas just like in the ancient Soviet nations.
In many places across the state, the festival continues throughout the year and it is imperative to note that you will have the best experience possible. Father Frost is similar to Santa Claus and the holiday trees that are put up in this region are similar to those Christmas trees in the west.
It is important to note that the Christmas dinner in this region is made up of 12 dishes which represent the twelve disciples just like in the bible and Christian traditions.
Christmas Day in Belarus
Christmas is brotherly in Belarus and it is vital to note that you are going to enjoy your vacation when you are visiting this region. The population in the region is so much into the Orthodox tradition and you will find a majority of them putting much more energy into this holiday than the others.
Many people across the country celebrate Christmas Day and others put more emphasis on the Orthodox Christmas. Since there are Christians and protestants across the country you will find that many people in different areas enjoy these two Christmases.
If you are going to visit Belarus then you are going to experience the way they celebrate two Christmases. Christmas holiday is common among the Slavic people and it is celebrated in different ways across the country. The preparation and cleaning of the house usually occurs on the eve of Christmas day.
During this time, you are going to find that they clean the houses, beddings and wash their clothes as well. The main aim of this is to ensure that the people begin their Christmas festivities on a clean slate. This tradition allows people to discuss anything that they could be facing in the previous year and find ways of beginning the new year in good spirits.
One of the most interesting aspects about Christmas in Belarus is that the Belarusian Catholics are not strict about Christmas as their counterparts in the West. They consume meat without waiting for midnight. After their dinner on Christmas Eve, they are going to join the Christmas mass in the church for the Christmas liturgy.
In many places across Belarus, the traditions have become less strict and they can join others in celebrating the Christmas holiday on the 25th of December. There are over 15% of protestants and Catholics around the country and you are going to have the best time in the region as you will have some people who share your traditions.
January 7th – Orthodox Christmas in Belarus
A majority of the people in Belarus are known to observe the Orthodox – Christmas holidays. They are often known to put their energies into celebrating this holiday with exceptional vigor.
January 7th is considered a holiday in the country. As it is a national holiday, people in the country are allowed to celebrate their holiday in the region. All the residents in the region are allowed to celebrate their Christmas just like the Christian holiday.
People in the country are known to call Christmas the first kolyada. It is honored by folk traditional festivities around the country. In rural Belarus, the tradition is still buzzing. You will find people putting a small amount of hay on the festive table to keep the tradition alive. The hay is a symbol of the manger in which Jesus was born.
One of the fundamental features is the lighting of a candle which is a symbol of the star of Jerusalem. The flame is not extinguished until dinner is complete. The people in the country continue to follow the tradition.
A large amount of snowfall is often considered a good omen. That’s because the bees will be hardworking and there will be enough honey in the summer. There are gifts given among family members during this period and you will find people exchanging gifts from one place to another.