Spring is almost here! Soon the birds will begin chirping again. Butterflies will flutter their beautiful wigs, and leaves will once again start budding. Just as mother nature creates a nurturing environment for new life to spring forward, our bodies and minds are ready for a spring cleanse and rejuvenation.


As we peel the layers of warm winter clothes, our bodies are ready for a cleanse and rejuvenation. We’re sharing a few helpful tips to cleanse, detox, and rejuvenate your body.


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Lenten Ingredients

The Great Lent is a 40 day spiritual preparation for Pascha (Easter) marked by reflection, personal improvement, repentance and fasting. Much like the Greeks and other Eastern European cultures, Russian Orthodox Christians begin observing Great Lent on “clean Monday”, a time to cleanse and purify everything from the clothes we wear, the pots and pans we cook with and most importantly, our bodies and souls.



Yes, Lent is the time for making auspicious changes. But it doesn’t have to be about complete deprivation. In Slavic tradition, the ritual of fasting for six weeks involves a progressive giving up of certain foods, beginning with meat. Fish, eggs and dairy, as well as olive oil are not allowed after the third week. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the Church rules, we’re helping you navigate through foods you CAN eat and sharing delicious recipes for Russian mushroom soup, cabbage soup and traditional eggplant ikra (veggie spread).


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Maslenitsa is a Holiday of indulgence and reverence before the Great Lent. As far back as Kievan Rus’, people celebrated Maslenitsa by indulging in food and fun for seven days. According to Orthodox tradition, this is the last week people can consume milk, eggs, and butter before embarking on a 40 day lent.




Each day of Malenitsa has a special meaning and reflects a hybrid of Christian traditions and pagan festivities of ancient Rus’. The Holiday is a bidding of farewell to harsh winters and welcoming in of a new and plentiful Spring season. A week-long journey of family, food and fun, Maslenitsa starts with an official welcoming of the Holiday on Monday.





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Russian Food





Blini with black caviar

Cupid’s arrow is about to strike the hearts of lovers once again. Yet as every woman knows, cupid is secondary if you can keep your honey’s stomach satisfied. This year, skip the Valentine’s Day dinner date and go straight for a romantic breakfast with your amour. Treat your partner to a luxuriously tasty creation of Russian mini blini with black caviar and fresh red mimosas with retro “Sovetskoe” champagne.





Borscht is one of the most recognizable words in the world. A hearty soup served in all regions of the Former Soviet Union. From the nobles to the peasants, borscht has graced the tables of generations of Russians, Ukrainians and many other Easter European cultures. 


Regional politics aside, the history of borscht is quite difficult to trace. Most gastronomic historians do agree that it likely originated in ancient Kievan Rus. Back then Kiev was the capital of greater Russia and likely was the birthplace of this marsh of beets, carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage.


The name is derived from the Slavic word “borschevik” translated as “hogweed” in English. Hogweed is a sturdy plant, and distant cousin of modern-day carrots, that still grows in many parts across Russia and Ukraine. 


Its shoots have been used for hundreds of years as a sugar substitute due to their sweet flavor. The leaves were often used for salads or as a side dish of greens. Boiling the leaves produced a wonderfully aromatic stock for soups, adding a distinct mushroom aroma. It’s not far fetched to think then, that original recipes of borscht called for borschevik, rather than beets, as its main ingredient.


Braised cabbage (tushyonaya kapusta) is a deliciously Russian dish, made by slowly cooking finely shredded cabbage with carrots and onions. During the Soviet days of limited food supplies, braised cabbage was one of the most popular and hearty dishes. It was indeed the Soviet version of comfort food. But what’s so special about cabbage anyway?




Cabbage has been cultivated for thousands of years. Ancient Romans loved it for its nutritional value as much as a remedy for hangovers, and even healing wounds. That’s right, cabbage soaked in vinegar was consumed before embarking on a evening of heavy drinking as early as 8th century BC. Caesar’s armies are known to have carried cabbage leaves to treat wounds and reduce infection and inflammation. Indeed, modern studies have confirmed that cabbage has antibacterial properties.



On January 6th, many Orthodox countries including Russia will celebrate Christmas Eve — also known as “Sochelnik”. While the date of Russian Christmas has always been on January 7 many traditions have changed over the past 200 years. In this post, we explore a number of folkloric rituals, and illuminate the differences between Russian Orthodox and Western Christmas customs.




What is “Sochelnik”?


Sochelnik comes from the Russian word “sochivo” – literally a liquid made from soaking wheat grains, and used instead of butter since no animal products are allowed to be consumed during the holiday. A simple porridge dish made with sochivo is known as “kutya.” The porridge is prepared with honey, poppy seeds, nuts and dried fruits – symbolizing immortality, success and happiness. Eating the grain porridge on Christmas Eve is also an homage to Daniel’s Fast on his journey to discovering God. (See a simple recipe for authentic sochivo at the end of this post). According to Orthodox tradition, on the eve before Christmas it is customary to fast until the first start is visible in the night sky.




New Year is the most beloved and celebrated holiday among Russians. Full of rich history, fascinating traditions and amusing customs, New Year celebrations trace back to Pagan Rus’. Back in those days, the year’s beginning was celebrated with the beginning of nature’s revival — usually in mid-March.


christening russiaSometime in the late 14th or early 15th century, came the Christening of the Great Rus’, and with it a new set of chronology and traditions. Adopting the European Julian calendar, the Orthodox Church officially moved the beginning of the year from March to September as a way to conform to the Nicean canons.


This shift signaled the growing importance of Christianity in the Old Rus’. And so it was that the New Year was now celebrated on September 1st with organized festivities and decoration of trees.



If you haven’t gotten everything you want for Christmas, there is still time. We’ve compiled a list of five MUST HAVE items to keep you warm, satisfied and beautiful for the New Year.



1. Russian Souvenirs are the perfect gifts for anyone interested in all things RUSSIAN. From Faberge-style eggs, to themed kitchen accessories and decorative plates – you’ll find a gem or two in our collection of the most sought after souvenirs. For the fashionistas in your life, we’ve got traditional woolen shawls and scarves. If you’re feeling adventurous, spring for the USSR military “Ushanka” hat, complete with ear flaps and emblematic Soviet red star. Classic Russian toys like “Kolobok” and “Nevalyashka” are a fun way to introduce traditional children’s characters to the little ones in your life.




2. Caviar is the ultimate Russian indulgence for the Holidays! Luxuriously rich and nutty, black roe caviar is derived from the wild Hackleback Sturgeon (Paddle Fish) and is a perfect pairing to your hors d’oeuvres platter or mini sandwiches. Tsar’s Red caviar makes a great garnish for deviled eggs or small toasts — uber popular and fit for royalty.



Around the world children are familiar with a “gift giver” that arrives magically on Christmas or New Year’s Eve to bring them presents. In America, Santa Clause has been a prominent figure since mid-19th century. The iconic symbol of Christmas, Santa’s modern image as a jolly old man in red clothing was popularized by none other than Coca Cola as a way to capture the magic of the Holidays.


Every year postal operators in many countries receive letters for Santa. Children around the world send their requests and wishes for Holiday presents. France leads the way with 1.7 million letters received in 2012. In the U.S. just over 1million letters are received, while in Russia about 300,000 children are writing to Santa. Perhaps it is because in Russia, Grandpa Frost “Ded Moroz” still dominates the scene.


Ded Moroz or santa



Born from old Slavic folklore as a grumpy winter dweller who liked to freeze and kidnap children, Ded Moroz was rehabilitated under the influence of Christian Orthodox traditions and cultural elements adopted from the Belgian and Dutch character Sinterklaas.


Year after year we follow traditions of gifting, tree decorating and family togetherness, but where did these rituals come from? Concerning Christmas, here are THREE things you probably DON’T KNOW about the festivities surrounding the Holiday.



Queen victoria


Christmas Trees Were Once Illegal 


Until the late 1800s, Christmas tree were considered pagan symbols and were thus not accepted by many Americans. In fact, the state of Massachusetts made Christmas pretty much illegal as a way to try and stamp out any signs of pagan traditions. Puritans were known to fine people for hanging decorations, adorning trees, and even caroling.


The change came when the fashionable Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert appeared in a newspaper sketch standing with the children next to a lavishly decorated Christmas tree. Little did she know that her beloved Majesty would set a new trend not only withe the Brits, but the fashion-conscious East Coast American “high society”. And so Christmas trees finally their way into American homes, becoming a staple of the Holiday Season.


December 25th not quite a Birthday


No specific date is giving in the Bible when it comes to Jesus’ birthday. Based on historical evidence, most scholars agree that Jesus was most likely born sometime in the Spring. It’s no coincidence that many cultures used to celebrate the New Year in the Spring as well – marking the rebirth of nature and the coming summer. So why does December 25th remain so significant?


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