Russia or Russian Federation,Rus. Rossiya, republic (1995 est. pop. 149,909,000), 6,591,100 sq mi (17,070,949 sq km). The country is bounded by Norway and Finland in the northwest; by Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine in the west; by Georgia and Azerbaijan in the southwest; and by Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China along the southern land border. The Kaliningrad Region is an exclave on the Baltic Sea bordered by Lithuania and Poland. Moscow is the capital and largest city.
The Russian Federation is the largest republic of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It occupies an area about one and four-fifths of the size of the United States and occupies most of eastern Europe and north Asia. Russia stretches from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea and the Caucasus, the Altai, and Sayan Mountains, and the Amur and Ussuri Rivers in the south. It is bordered by Norway and Finland in the northwest, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine in the west, Georgia and Azerbaijan in the southwest, and Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China along the southern border. The federation is composed of 21 republics.
During the holy days between December 25th and January 7th, it is a custom in many parts of Russia for people, especially the children, to go from house to house singing the hymns of the Liturgy of the Nativity, carols and seasonal songs. As they go from door to door, the carolers carry a lantern in the shape of a star, symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem.
The Orthodox Christians observance of the Birth of Christ is preceded by a forty day fast. On December 24th, a special supper is served at home following the Evening Service. All will have fasted very strictly that day and after Holy Communion they return home to eat the Holy supper. This meal will not begin until the first star appears and is served on a table strewn with straw, to remind us that the infant Christ was born in a manger.