As the year comes to a close, and the Christmas spirit permeates the air, Eastbook.eu takes a look at the holiday celebrations in the Eastern Partnership, in December and January. Through such postcard snapshots of feelings, scenery, family, music, and beauty, we can easily see what unites us all as one treasured human family. With best wishes for a Merry Christmas!
Read also our Christmas stories from previous years:
The Christmas time in the Eastern Partnership countries:
C Рождеством Христовым!
З Різдвом Христовим!
З Божым Нараджэннем!
Crăciun Fericit şi un An Nou Fericit!
Շնորհավոր Ամանոր և Սուրբ Ծնունդ
გილოცავთ შობა-ახალ წელს!
As many other citizens of countries in the eastern parts of Europe, Armenians celebrate the Christmas time in January, according to the Julian calendar but also to a long-standing Christian tradition going back more than 16 centuries.
Although baklava is made throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, history suggests that it actually has its roots in ancient Armenia. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Many layers of phyllo dough, separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, but hazelnuts are also sometimes used—is placed on top, then more layers of filo.
In Armenia baklava is made with cinnamon and cloves. Though a popular dessert, it is also a dessert made on special occasions (by Muslims, mostly during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid El-Fitr) and by Christians during Easter and Christmas.
Lighting on the main Christmas tree, Yerevan,Armenia pic.twitter.com/rxTDURg7SZ
— AnAhIt Manasyan (@Annouchik) December 18, 2013
An Armenian Christmas Carol
A uniquely ‘green’ Christmas?
Christmas in Azerbaijan is making its mark in a unique way this year, as globe-travelling artist Nick Sayers has created a Christmas tree out of recycled for a public square in Baku. The tree, standing 7 metres high, is made entirely of recycled plastic bottles. Pepsi Azerbaijan collected 3,000 bottles for the project and a team of 20 local student volunteers helped clean the bottles, cut holes in their bases and string them together with cable ties.
The project was commissioned by Leyla Aliyeva, first daughter of the Azerbaijani president, through her institute the International Dialogue for Environmental Action. The tree has been said to be in honour of the New Year, rather than Christmas, as Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country.
Sayers spoke of the reasoning behind the project, saying, “I make almost all my work from recycled and repurposed material and Christmas is such a time of consumerism and using up of materials that it was good to make a statement about waste and recycling.”
An exclusive Christmas Tree in Baku made of plastic bottles. Bakıda plastik butulkalardan hazırlanmış… http://t.co/vpd8O0DCqo
— azerbaijan_art (@azerbaijan_art) December 24, 2013
Marking the opening of a new season – the Winter Solstice – many Azerbaijanis celebrate the Yalda Night, a tradition going back to pre-Zoroastrian times.
It really ’tis the season…
Christmas in Belarus – celebrated in December and January, following the Julian and the Gregorian calendars – is marked with balls, festivals, concerts, ballet, and unquely Belarusian folk rituals. One such ritual, Tereshka’s Wedding, hearkens back to a time when every Christmas eve in the village of Anoshki, every young man became a ‘Tereshka’ and was free to choose a wife. Once each one had chosen, all the couples would hold a joke marriage with songs, dances, accordion music, and games. The ritual is still conducted in the Vitebsk Oblast of Belarus, and welcomes guests each year to participate in the annual good humour.
Another ritual, the Kolyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars), has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. A procession of “tsars” inspired by soldiers of the Russian Empire army would visit homes of the locals in the Minsk Oblast to perform the drama ‘Tsar Maximilian’, is a well-known and complex Russian drama.
— Artem Ivanov (@ArtemRay) December 24, 2013
A glimpse of Belarusian Christmas folk singing…
The night before Christmas – in Georgia also celebrated according to the Julian calendar – all the churches in the country begin the solemn liturgy. In Tbilisi, the liturgy is held in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch.
After the service the festive ‘Alilo’ parade begins, in which the congregation and the priests walk down the street in song, carrying icons, crosses and church banners. Thus, heralding the news of the birth of Christ. Anyone can join the procession, and many carry gifts, which are then distributed to orphanages and asylums.
On Christmas night, candles are lit and placed in the windows of Georgian homes, in memory of the Biblical story in which Joseph and Mary sought shelter for giving birth to their son. Georgian Christmas has also its own culinary traditions, and many bake kvertsi – Georgian Christmas cakes.
Beautiful Christmas lights in Tbilisi. pic.twitter.com/vo9PqbnvnX
— Georgia About (@GeorgiaAbout) December 25, 2013
A Georgian Christmas Carol
Caroling, caroling, through the snow…
As an Orthodox country, Moldova celebrates Christmas on the night of the 6th of January passing into the 7th of January. One of the most common traditions is the Christmas tree, although people in Moldova usually decorate the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve, and some call it the New Year Tree.
Something unique to Moldova, however, is the continued tradition of caroling. The custom of ‘men’s group caroling’ in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List demonstrates the extent to which the tradition has enriched the Christmas season in Moldova, and the importance of keeping the tradition alive.
Caroling in the Moldovan language is called ” Colindatul”. Traditionally, during the first hours after dark on Christmas Eve children would go caroling and the adults would stay home to greet them. As they go caroling from house to house, the children receive gifts, such as candy, fruit, baked treats and sometimes even money, in appreciation of their performance and as a sign of holiday good will.
Svyatyi Mykolai and Sviaty Vechir…
Like Moldova and Georgia, Ukraine celebrates according to the Julian calendar. So celebrations traditionally start on 6 January, Christmas Eve, and end on 7 January, “Jordan” or Epiphany.
According to tradition, when children see the first star in the eastern evening sky, which symbolises the journey of the Three Wise Men, the Sviaty Vechir, or Holy Evening, may begin. The Sviaty Vechir is the greatest tradition of the Christmas Eve celebrations in Ukrainian homes, which usually consists of dinner, and traditional Ukrainian foods, such Kutia (sweet grain pudding) , which is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper and is rarely served at other times of the year.
— Nitin (@NitinNavigant) December 25, 2013
Ukrainian Folk Christmas Song…
З Різдвом Христовим!
C Рождеством Христовым!
Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia!