The Orthodox religion prevails in Russia. It follows the Julian calendar and not the Gregorian one, so Christmas is therefore celebrated 13 days after the Catholics, namely on January 7th of each year. Animations start on January 6th and extend to January 9th, as mass is held everywhere on Christmas Eve. In the past, groups of children and adults moved from house to house carrying a star-topped pole and singing. As a reward, residents would give them gingerbread, Pierogi (small ravioli stuffed with cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms and meat) and sometimes even money. The Christmas tree and presents are also part of the Orthodox tradition. Offerings are distributed by Ded Moroz, comparable to Santa.
To celebrate Christmas Russian style, here are the best go-to addresses in the French capital.
Spanking new: Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center
In the heart of Paris, the new hotbed of Russian orthodox culture now overlooks the Seine. Halfway between the Eiffel tower and the Invalides, the structure is comprised of several buildings. First, the impressive Sainte-Trinité Orthodox Cathedral, crowned with the five golden domes that are very characteristic of Russian religious architecture. Then, the cultural centre that houses a bookshop, several exhibition spaces as well as a parish council. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus' made the trip to Paris on Sunday December 4th, 2016 to bless the Cathedral, now open to the public during service.
To celebrate Orthodox Christmas, the Spiritual and Cultural Centre will be decorated in pomp and, on Christmas Eve, a public mass will take place for the first time in the early life of the Cathedral. The Centre also offers a café where you can, while waiting for the celebrations to begin, enjoy typical drinks – sbitegne, kvas, mead and cranberry juice.
Centre spirituel et culturel orthodoxe russe et cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité
1, quai Branly
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Until the Sainte-Trinité Orthodox Cathedral opened at the Quai Branly, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was the largest Orthodox building in the capital, located on rue Daru in the 8th arrondissement. Inaugurated in 1861 and listed as historical monument in 1983, its construction was the result of a wave of Russian immigration linked to the 1917 Revolution. Except during service, the church is opened to visitors on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Each year during the night of 6-7 January, Christmas mass is held, attracting hundreds or Russian Orthodox believers, but also numerous curious people. Since the mid-1930s, the ceremony can be heard on the France Culture radio station.
2, rue Daru
+33 (0)1 42 27 37 34
In 2010, the Russian brand Café Pouchkine launched its first Parisian branch in the Printemps department store, on boulevard Haussmann. Facing huge success, brand founder Andrey Dellos opened a second French boutique near the Place des Vosges, then a third in November 2016 on boulevard Saint-Germain. This new 35-seat 80 sqm restaurant/tea room is a good opportunity for Pouchkine lovers to taste Pastry Chef Julien Alvarez's creations. In the restaurant, you cannot say no to the Kamtchatka crab gazpacho or to the Beef Stroganoff. As for the tea room, you can choose to sit in or take away. You'll be tempted by many delicious pastries like the Pavlova (apples and quince fruits) or the home-made millefeuille. Last but not least, in light of the holiday season, do not forget to try the fabulous Christmas Yule log, Pouchkine style!
Café Pouchkine – Printemps Mode
64, boulevard Haussmann
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 82 43 31
2, rue des Francs-Bourgeois
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 72 07 05
155, boulevard Saint-Germain
+33 (0)1 42 22 58 44
Founded in 1918, close to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, by an Imperial guard under Tsar Nicholas II, Daru is the oldest Russian address in Paris. It has become a genuine institution, opening the doors of Russian culture and gastronomy to all refined food lovers and offering quality and fresh products for generations. In the restaurant dining room, only gold can rival with the dominating red hues. Old barrels and vintage vodka bottles rub shoulders with portraits of Tsars, dolls and other painted wooden objects.
As for the contents of your plate, you cannot find but great food here. Caviar, herring, salmon, eel and crab, they are all prepared the Russian way. All these will delight your eyes and palate alike. On Christmas Eve, you can add a bunch of folk songs to the proceedings.
19, rue Daru
+33 (0)1 42 27 23 60
Menu: from 28 EUR to 150 EUR
For almost twenty years, this bistrot – Sveltana means light in Russian – has lit up the butte Montmartre with its warm atmosphere. The owner manages himself this bijou of a place, decorated with flowery shawls, golden icons, balalaikas (typically Russian sort of lute with a long neck) and small paintings of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna or writer and poet Pouchkine. Russians and Armenians often visit this lovely isba, for its genuine simplicity and moderate prices, while singers sail on the boat of nostalgia at night.
What would be the ideal menu to raise the voice too? A nice plate of zakouskis, then an Armenian chachlyck (marinated lamb skewer) and finally the delicious and unavoidable vatrouchka made of quark. Do not hesitate and try (responsibly of course!) herbal Siberian vodka. Properly served chilled, it is the vodka hunters drink in Siberia, warming their insides before driving the reindeers out of hiding under freezing temperatures!
52, rue d'Orsel
+33 (0)1 42 23 52 25
Menu: 33 EUR
Legendary old Russian cabaret, Chez Raspoutine regained the glory of yesteryears. Tsar of Parisian nights, Laurent de Gourcuff took over in 2011, making it in no time one of the most popular clubs of the capital. Interior decoration is as baroque as can be, scarlet furs and velvet, as well as lace and golden brown embroidery covering the walls. It has been listed as historical monument!
Worthy of its reputation as a hotbed of partying, Chez Raspoutine welcomes clubbers and happy fews on the night of Old New Year. A modern and energetic way to celebrate Christmas while swaying your hips to trendy electronic sounds, mixed by the capital's best DJs.
58, rue de Bassano
+33 (0)1 47 20 02 90