To my Russian, Romanian, and Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox readers -
Christmas for the Eastern Orthodox Christians started when the first star appeared last night. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, with Christmas falling on January 7. The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. It was later replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
Christmas is preceded by forty days of Lent when people do not eat meat or dairy products. The Christmas Lent finishes on Christmas Eve as the first star appears in the sky. The star symbolizes the one seen above Bethlehem when Christ was born.
The first meal on Christmas Eve is traditionally a 12 course meal filled with symbolism. Some day I would like to try to do the whole meal but until then we will enjoy the mushroom soup and maybe one other course and talk about the fact that in Russia Christmas is being celebrated today.