Christmas in Kazakhstan

Christmas in Kazakhstan is almost always snowy, as it snows for around four months of the year during the winter. About 70% of people in Kazakhstan are Muslims, so Christmas isn't a big holiday. Most of the Christians in Kazakhstan belong to Orthodox churches, so they celebrate Christmas on January 7th, rather than on December 25th.

For Orthodox christians Advent lasts for 40 days, and some people won't eat any meat during this time. Advent ends when you can see the first star in the night sky on January 6th; this symbolises the birth of Jesus and then the main Christmas meal can start. After the meal, many Orthodox christians will go to a midnight church service.

Some non Orthodox christians might celebrate Christmas on December 25th or sometimes the Sunday before. They have also translated some English songs into Kazakh and Russian and there are a few traditional songs that were composed in Kazakhstan, but they normally sing their usual worship songs in Church on the day they celebrate Christmas.

In Kazakhstan, the main winter festival is New Year. So while there aren't Christmas trees, Father Christmas/Santa or Christmas presents for the good children... there IS a New Year tree, there IS a Snow Father/Father Frost/Grandfather Frost, called 'Ayaz Ata' (Аяз Ата) in Kazakh. He often travels with 'Kar Kız' (which means 'Snow Girl' or 'Snow Maiden') who is his granddaughter. Ayaz Ata and Kar Kız bring presents to children at New Year.

There are lots of fireworks and other celebrations to welcome in the New Year.

The 1st and 2nd of January are public holidays in Kazakhstan and the 7th January was made a public holiday on in 2007.

When Kazakhstan was part of the USSR, all religions were banned and the government made the New Year celebrations important - that's why they are still more important than Christmas today - even after 25 years after the collapse of the USSR. (In fact Kazakhstan finalized independence from the USSR on December 25th 1991! Kazakhstan Independence Day is celebrated on 16th December, the date is the first officially Independence declared from the Soviet Union.)

Just as countries have celebrations in the run-up to Christmas, Kazakhstan’s New Year celebrations start in early December.

At New Year celebrations, children recite a poem or sing a song for the jolly Snow Father in his blue (or red) suit and he gives them a New Year present around the New Year tree! There are baubles and twinkly lights in the shop windows and everyone is excited. So other than a change of date and despite being a Muslim country, Christmas ends up being pretty similar to Christmas elsewhere in the world! (But not many people know about The Christmas Story and the birth of Jesus.)

In Kazahk Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Rojdestvo quttı bolsın' (Рождество құтты болсын) and Happy New Year is 'Jaña jul kutty bolsyn' (Жана Жыл кутты болсын). Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.