Having grew up in Russia, Christmas was not a biggest celebration of the year for my generation. In soviet Russia we were going to church as a historical or art monument rather than a religious place. The church was strictly out of question, if you were going to have some kind of carreer or working in school or any public services. People still celebrated Christmas and Easter, but officially we have never had a bank holidays on these dates. Once Christmas was cancelled shortly after revolution, the New Year became the biggest celebration of the year and Ded Moroz (russian equivalent of Father Christmas) together with his grand daughter Snegurochka ( Snowgirl) come always on New Year’s eve to bring the presents. In every school and most of the businesses there are kids costumised parties with pantomime, singing, dancing , lots of games and of course presents, usually bags of sweets, chocolates and fruits, which would’ve been organised by parents.
But we have one more celebration in January- it’s Stary Novy God: Old New Year! It must be confusing to hear” Old New Year”. How can it be Old New Year? Well, it is really so simple. Every country in the world today is using the same calendar for civil and political purposes, named Gregorian after the Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it initially to the catholic countries. Russia as a state also has adopted it after Red revolution. But Russian Church, which is Russian Orthodox, has never changed from Old Julian calendar, which is exactly 14 days later than Gregorian. This is why we have our Christmas for example on the 7th of January and also some separate dates for some holidays, including New New Year and Old New Year. As I said before the New Year is the biggest celebration of the year in Russia and the 1st of January is official bank holiday. The Old New Year always falls on the the night from 13th to 14th of January and it is not a bank holiday, but many russians are still following old tradition. Usually it is celebrated in much quieter atmosphere with close friends and family, with a simple dinner , some nostalgic stories, sometimes playing the fortune telling, singing songs and of course a guitar. Well , guitar and pîano in my case, as I was a city girl. Though in our family we also had musicians playing accordeon. We even have some soviet era russian songs dedicated to Old New Year . Here is one of the favorite ever Old New Year songs from late 70s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWW4hlPtf78
The tradition says that you cannot take Christmas ( in our case New Year) decorations down until the 14th of January.
Today many things are changing and Russia is trying to bring back some old cultural and religious traditions, perhaps not all the right way. For example, there are many adverts offering celebrating the Old New Year in ” style”, which usually means a huge party with excessive quantities of Champagne and Vodka, plentyful tables , loud music, singning and dancing.
But for me personally Old New Year will always be quiet, nostalgic and simple.