UAE: Understanding the Russian Christmas Celebration on January 7

In the multicultural tapestry of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the celebration of Christmas varies among the diverse expatriate communities residing in the country. Russian expats mark Christmas on January 7, which holds cultural and religious significance for them.

Orthodox Christmas Tradition

The Orthodox Christian community, including Russians, observes Christmas on January 7 according to the Julian calendar. In contrast, according to the Gregorian calendar, most Christian denominations celebrate Christmas on December 25. This unique timing has become a cherished tradition for Russian expatriates, adding a distinctive flavor to the festive season.

Russian Christmas in the UAE

As the clock strikes midnight on January 7, Russian families in the UAE gather to celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm and joy. Among them is Jermyn Rudakov, a Russian student residing in Abu Dhabi who eagerly anticipates the festive occasion. Alongside friends and family, he will partake in the grandeur of Christmas Eve, featuring twelve elaborate dishes symbolizing the 12 apostles of Jesus. This practice is deeply rooted in Orthodox tradition and is observed with reverence.

Sergei Koleshev, CEO of the Russian Cultural Center in the UAE, shares his perspective on the significance of Christmas for the Russian community. “Christmas holds great importance for all Russians living abroad. Regardless of our location, we always come together with friends and families to celebrate Christmas,” says Koleshev. The festive celebrations occur in Abu Dhabi this year, following authentic Russian customs.

Growing Popularity

Olga Gafurov, the executive editor of a prominent Russian magazine in the UAE, comments on the increasing popularity of Orthodox Christmas celebrations among the Russian expatriate community. She notes, “Especially in Dubai, Russian tourists and residents actively participate in Orthodox Christmas festivities, making it more widely recognized.”

Extravagant Celebrations

Dubai hosts some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, shopping outlets, and restaurants, providing a lavish backdrop for the celebration of Orthodox Christmas. Renowned establishments such as Gastronomia, Bab Al Shams’ Saal, and Address Grand Creek Harbor curate special events and gastronomic experiences tailored to Russian Christmas traditions. The events include music shows featuring famous Russian singers, entertainment by leading entertainment companies, and exquisite dining experiences.

Global Orthodox Christmas Observance

Beyond the UAE, several countries, including Serbia, Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Armenia, also observe Orthodox Christmas on January 7. This global celebration unites Orthodox Christians, with an estimated 200 to 300 million adherents worldwide.

Unique Calendar Dynamics

Orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar for their religious observances, leading to the variance in Christmas dates. While most Christians celebrate on December 25, adherents of the Orthodox faith commemorate Christmas 13 days later. This discrepancy arises from the Julian calendar lagging behind the Gregorian calendar.

In conclusion, celebrating Orthodox Christmas among Russian expatriates in the UAE brings a unique cultural touch to the festive season. The traditions and customs observed on January 7 foster a sense of community and connection among the Russian diaspora, contributing to the rich cultural mosaic of the UAE.


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