Holiday Tea Traditions

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Russian Spiced Tea (Pryanyi Chai)

Russia was an Orthodox Christian country, then came the Revolution of 1917. However, things did change when the Soviets came into power.  Atheism was then the order of the day – Christmas was banned as a religious holiday in 1929 and Christmas trees were banned until 1935 when they became known as “New Years Trees”. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day became the national secular holidays that were celebrated with fervor.

Since 1992, however, historic religious rituals and practices once again began to be observed openly and with relish. Christmas in Russia is celebrated on January 7th.  The date is different because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar for religious days. Custom has it that most people fast on Christmas Eve until the first star has appeared in the sky, then a very special meal is prepared.

This meal is meatless and usually consists of 12 courses in honor of Christ’s apostles. In very strict Orthodox families, fish, vegetable oil, and alcohol are not allowed, so Pryanyi Chai (Russian Spiced Tea) is served. It is the only beverage allowed on Christmas Eve or sometimes sibiten a traditional Russian winter beverage made with fruit jams, honey, cinnamon and flavors of choice is served.

Pryanyi – spiced tea is a traditional and much-loved hot beverage in Russia. In the glory days of the tsars, it was served from gleaming silver samovars. Today this tea can be found while driving down the highways of Russia. When you enter a small village, look for the babushka sitting by the road. She will either be selling veggies in summer and or hot spicy tea, if the weather is getting cold.

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