The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Christmas (January 7)

This holiday is, more than any other, associated with the anticipation of a miracle. In the old days, folk tradition of celebrating Christmas always included house-to-house carol-singing. Children and young people used to tread village streets, carrying a pole with an Advent star on top of it, and to call at their neighbours’ houses; they sang carols, wished everybody Merry Christmas, and were given presents in return: sweets, pies, and other festive food.

Leo Tolstoy enjoyed traditional Christmas celebrations. His son Ilya wrote that “guisers used to come from the village, and then dancing began, and once even papá himself dressed as a bear tamer led a bear around the dining-room - our cook Nikolai, wearing a raccoon coat turned inside out.”

As time went by, Christmas masquerade became a well-established tradition of the Tolstoy family. Leo Tolstoy’s wife Sophia remembered that they always began their holiday preparations in advance, opened all “long-forgotten lockers and trunks”, and made masks, caps, crowns, and mantles from shawls. Musicians were invited, and all who gathered in the spacious dining-room of the Yasnaya Polyana house enjoyed the fun: children and adults, all the Tolstoy family and their neighbours, and the servants. Peasant children were given so-called “skeleton dolls” – wooden dolls with painted faces dressed in the clothes specially sewn for them by Tolstoy’s wife and children.

The present-day Christmas program at Yasnaya Polyana usually includes folk music and theatrical performances, and traditional games. The celebration always culminates in a spectacular fireworks display
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