Walking through the forest, the trees appear bluish-silver-grey, punctuated by peeling birch bark white-with-flecks-of-black in the dark of a cloudy, snowy night. Lights from the dacha at last can be glimpsed as we arrive back from caroling at our neighbors’. The snow crunches beneath our feet. We are dressed in traditional clothes, kokoshniks and all, bundled up in warm coats and ready for Russian Christmas Eve.
The worn-and-burnished wooden table spreads before us, laden with pine branches and hay, a white pillar candle taking center stage. The Light of the world!
Twelve dishes will be thrust upon us— borsch, mushrooms, new potatoes with petrushka (parsley), a roast chicken, various pickled vegetables, blini, berries cooked a variety of ways, rolls, honey, tea…. There’s no getting away from course after course and nobody seems to mind being stuffed like kolbasa. The fire snaps and crackles in the pechka, creating a warm, cozy, mesmerizing atmosphere. Hearts are happy, the dogs curl underneath the table.
The male voice among us states with authority, opening the meal: “Khristos Razhdayetsya!” (Christ is born!)
The faces around the table are lit with the shining of the candle and smaller, flickering votives off to the side. The fragrance and warmth surround us as though we are in our own, sweet manger. This is a special time, a holy time, rejoicing in the light as cold and darkness linger in the forest beyond.
————Tags: 12 dishes of Russian Christmas, at the Russian dacha, family at the dacha, family time at Russian Christmas, kolbasa on the pechka, new potatoes with petrushka, Russian Christmas