Christmas was not able to be publicly celebrated during much of the 20th century. Indeed, many Russians identify themselves as atheists, making the religious observance less fashionable. But be that as it may, Russians are slowly returning to religion (Russian Orthodoxy), and the number of people celebrating Christmas is growing.
Christmas in Russia is most widely celebrated on January 7th, according to the Orthodox calendar. New Year’s Day however, precedes the Russian Christmas and is often celebrated as a more important holiday on January 1st .
However, some Russians observe two Christmases and even two New Year’s – the first Christmas observed on December 25th, and the second New Year’s observed on January 14th.
The Russian Santa Claus is named Ded Moroz or Father Frost. Accompanied by Snegurochka the Snow Maiden, he brings presents to children to place under the New Year’s tree. He carries a staff, wears valenki and is carried across Russia in a troika.
Svyatki or Christmastide follows the celebration of Christmas and lasts until January 19th, the day Epiphany is celebrated. This two-week period is closely associated with pagan traditions of fortune telling and caroling.
The Krendel is very similar to other eastern European breads, such as the Vánočka or Vianočka in terms of the roping and twisting. As with the majority of Christmas breads it features a rich dough and macerated fruits.
Essentially it is a flat rectangle of sweet yeast dough upon which is placed a mixture of either dried or mascerated fruits which is then rolled up into a rope. The rope is then formed into a sort of pretzel shape and baked.
Sometimes they are just coiled into a round shape without forming it into a pretzel or more simply yet, rolled and baked as a cylinder without shaping. After proving it can be left plain, lightly iced or sprinkled with coarse sugar before baking.