Russians in Hong Kong prepare for Christmas celebrations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 4:06am

Just when you thought Christmas was over, a small but growing community in the city is busy preparing for their own celebration tomorrow - that of the Russian Orthodox Christmas.

January 7 is Christmas in Russia because of differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars.

Father Denis Pozdnyaev at the Saints Peter and Paul church in Sheung Wan will hold a special Christmas Eve service tonight.

He said the congregation at the church had grown in recent years, with new members from different backgrounds including local Chinese, Americans and French. "Our Christmas has a common base and the general sense is the same, but liturgically, we have our own order to celebrate," he said.

Originally from Moscow, Pozdnyaev moved to Hong Kong about 10 years ago. He said his Easter service was the most popular, with about 100 parishioners joining the event. The church used to be based in Wan Chai but relocated to Sheung Wan about three years ago.

For Danila Deliya, 30, from Astrakhan in southern Russia, today marks another Russian celebration - but not one that's affiliated with religion.

He is hosting a special New Year's morning party for children today in Central, much like the secular ones he went to when he was a child.

"It's a Soviet Union-style party, like the ones I had when I was a child in Russia because there were no churches," he said. After 1917, when the communists took over Russia, religion was banned so Christmas celebrations were reshaped into New Year's festivities.

One of the traditions sees Santa Claus become Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz in Russian), who is accompanied by his granddaughter called Snow Maiden, or Snegurochka.

Deliya, who moved to Hong Kong four-and-a-half years ago to work as an analyst for an investment bank, said the Russian community was growing.

Official consular figures show there are 1,500 Russian nationals registered in Hong Kong, he said, more than double the estimated 600 Russians in Hong Kong about three years ago.

The removal of visa restrictions and trading opportunities were the main drawcards for more Russians coming to the city, Deliya said. Latest immigration figures show that since 2002, almost 4,100 work visas have been issued to Russians, with an increase of 13 per cent in the five years to 2012 compared with the period between 2002 and 2007.