Celebrations of the New Year all over the world strive for the global common denominator, while Christmas on the opposite has a special atmosphere in every country. Every family has its own little and great Christmas traditions. Christmas celebrations in Russia start on the night before Christmas and continue until the Epiphany. During these days neighbors and friends go to each other’s homes with treats, sing funny songs and ditties. Children are very fond of these days because they receive masses of treats. Young girls tell love fortunes, and are especially attentive to the fate signs.
A festive dinner usually starts after the rising of the first star. This tradition reminds us of the Bethlehem star that pointed the way to the birthplace of Christ to the Magi. Orthodox Christians usually prepare not only rich festive Christmas dishes, but also meatless dishes for Christmas Eve, usually sochivo (kutia, Christmas pudding) from the word Eve (Socheknik in Russian) and vzvar (stewed fruit drink), which resembles non-alcoholic mulled wine (gluckwein) with its spicy aromas.
All the preparations for the feast and even the ingredients used in preparing kutia and vzvar are shrouded in certain symbolism. For example, the richer and the sweeter sochivo is, the more fruitful the next year will be. The grain from which kutia is made serves as a symbol of new life, honey represents health and well-being, and poppy seeds represent family wealth. Although, in the southern regions of the country kutia was prepared on the basis of rice, the other ingredients remained unchanged.
We present a recipe of traditional sochivo (kutia), which will decorate the holiday table.