Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year from Samara

So did you have a nice Christmas? I realize my tone in a previous post was in part melancholy, but I've dusted off the new snow that's landed on my shoulders and am revving up for the New Year!

Maybe you are interested in a Russian Christmas or New Year? Let me tell you some things so you can imagine what's happening around the Volga these days. Everyone knows that Xmas is on the 25th and is celebrated by numerous countries, but the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates it on the epiphany on the 7th, so Russians technically celebrate after the New Year, if they consider themselves religious.

Luckily, some buildings are lit for the holidays and decorations are plentiful. We got a cheap artificial tree in which I made most of the ornaments, but after visiting a public school last week, we were given Father Christmas (Dyet Moros) and his wife the Snow Maiden (Sne something ka) which you can see at the bottom of the tree. A few days ago, I also found my only little Baba Yaga, so up she went in my tree too. Here the trees are known as New Year's trees, although the decorations are almost identical to what you are used to. These days you can find bundles of trees at different tram stops if you want to go all organic. Just today we saw a man with a tied up tree on a sled he was pulling along and Jeremy commented how this seemed rather Russian if not Northern European. One more thing about the tree. During Soviet times, people would put a red star at the top of their tree!

So let's get into New Years, which is a huge holiday here. In fact, it lasts about 7-10 days since more people get off of work and go somewhere to relax. New Year's Eve supposedly should be quite crazy. I'll report on that once I have experienced it, but while some people see it as a family holiday and have a cozy celebration at home, many people are running around drunk and fireworks should be going off whenever someone gets their hands on some. Most families give each other one present, maybe a large one so it's somewhat similar to Xmas that way too. TV plays a large role as well, since many celebrities sing and Putin will give a speech welcoming in the New Year. Russians are really into superstitions and the zodiac, so everywhere you look for Xmas stuff, you are sure to find ugly pig stuff. The Chinese year of the pig is as popular as Santa himself this year. Giving a pig is an easy idea for a present and should bring good luck to the receiver.

I am not sure if there is any special food eaten at this time of the year, but there are lots of well wrapped boxes of chocolates and candies if they count. I am stumped to think of any other significant details here. If you have q's, post them to this one and I will answer them with my next post. Anyway, I hope you keep your resolutions and have fantastic events this year to make your life happy!

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