At Christmas the girls assembled their beds around the Yule tree in Aleksey’s playroom. There they could lie in the dark, watching the sparkling ornaments and star-like lights as they drifted off to sleep.
As children of the Russian Tsar, the Grand Duchesses were all raised in Russian Orthodox church beliefs. They all deeply believed in God and that also helped them a great deal in their last months. The great festivities were always held at Easter time and also Christmas. Those were usually spent in Tsarskoe Selo. The children were always greatly charmed with the decorations, and pulled each other under the mistletoe for kissing purposes. Once when their mother came in dressed in beautiful court dress, the girls circled round her in speechless admiration for some time, then suddenly Olga clapped her hands, and exclaimed fervently: “Oh! Mama, you are just like a lovely Christmas tree!”
There used to be about eight Christmas trees in various parts of the palace. Tsarina liked to dress each of them herself, and also personally chose the presents for each member of the household, and for each officer, to the number of about five hundred. The children had a tree for themselves. It used to be fixed into a musical-box which played the German Christmas hymn, and turned round and round. All the presents were laid out on white covered tables, and the tree stood for several days an object of intense interest and admiration to the children. They were very sad when it was dismantled, but they were consoled by being allowed to help, and to divide the toys between the members of their own household. After that the family used to go to Peterburg and join a great a great ceremony in a palace cathedral. When they grew older, the girls (as was the custom) were present in their beautiful court dresses.