UAE: Why Russian expats celebrate Christmas on January 7

Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in countries such as Serbia, Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and more

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Angel Tesorero

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Published: Sat 6 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 7 Jan 2024, 2:58 PM

It’s still the festive season for Russian expats who will be celebrating Orthodox Christmas on January 7, and Orthodox New Year next Sunday, January 14.

Tonight, 19-year old Russian student Germán Rudakov will be enjoying with family and friends a festive twelve-dish Christmas Eve dinner, which is traditionally prepared in Northern, Central and Eastern European cultures to commemorate the 12 disciples of Jesus, whose birth is celebrated on Christmas.

“On Christmas Day, my family will attend the Divine Liturgy, and we continue celebrating with feasting, carolling, and joyful gatherings – creating a warm and festive atmosphere,” the Russian teenager, who is also a personal trainer, told Khaleej Times.

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“Christmas is a very important time for all Russian-speaking people. No matter where we are – whether in London, Moscow, or Dubai – we always celebrate it in the company of friends and family,” added Sergei Kolushev, CEO of Eventica.

This year, he will be celebrating Christmas in Abu Dhabi – “and doing it the proper Russian way,” he underscored. This means, a gala dinner at St Regis Saadiyat with the iconic music group Kvatro performing, and an authentic culinary experience provided by Babushka restaurant.”

Increasingly popular

Olga Gafurova, executive editor of Aviamost Russian Magazine, who will be celebrating her 17th Orthodox Christmas in the UAE, noted: “The country, Dubai in particular, is proving increasingly popular among Russian tourists and residents – thanks to open borders, political neutrality, and a wide selection of the world’s most luxurious hotels and shops.”

“Many resorts and restaurants in Dubai have long prepared special festivities for Russian Christmas such as Gastronomy at Atlantis the Royal, Zala at Bab Al Shams, Address Grand Creek Harbour, and many others. Russian event and entertainment companies have also organised live concerts with famous singers, gourmet dining, and elaborate settings,” she added.

Personal prayer

Gafurova continued: “Christmas is the most anticipated holiday of the year for Russians around the world – it's a magical time when miracles happen.”

Though people will be celebrating, Gafurova also has a personal prayer. “Considering the current situation worldwide, it's difficult to celebrate, knowing that so many people are suffering. This Christmas, I'll pray for ceasefire at the birthplace of Jesus Christ, which is Palestine and for peace in the world.

“We should remember that the true meaning of Christmas is how to bring the greatest happiness to others, to light up people's hearts with love, goodwill, and compassion,” she emphasised.

Cultural celebration

Natalya Andakulova, art historian and owner of Andakulova Gallery, for her part, noted: “Russian Christmas celebration in Dubai is further enhanced with a cultural celebration with the opening of a special sculpture exhibition by renowned artist Alfiz Sabirov."

She added: “With a sizeable Russian expat community, Dubai has truly become a hub for Russian traditions during the holiday season.”

Dubai-based journalist and cultural analyst Egor Sharay, who calls Dubai his home for 16 years, agrees. He said: “One of the many reasons I cherish living and working in Dubai is the incredible multicultural environment. We come together to celebrate holidays, transcending nationality and religion. Orthodox Christmas, an enchanting tradition is celebrated here and we are grateful for the unity in diversity that makes Dubai truly special.”

Christmas in January

Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in countries such as Serbia, Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Armenia.

Orthodox Christians, who are estimated to number between 200 and 300 million people globally, celebrate Christmas on January 7, or 13 days after December 25, because they follow the Julian calendar which is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar used by majority of Christians and Catholics. But there is one thing common between the Eastern and Western celebration of Christmas and that is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

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