The New Year is the biggest holiday in Russia and is celebrated on a level equivalent to our Christmas. They do have Christmas in the Orthdox religion, Рождество, which takes place on January 6, but in the Orthodox religion they believe the the resurection is the event to celebrate, so Easter, Пасха, is the most celebrated religious holiday. So if you wish a Russian “Merry Christmas” and they don’t know what you are talking about this is why. The New Year, however comes with all the same enchantments as our Christmas. To celebrate the New Year Russians find a Christmas tree, Елочка, and children await the presents to be brought to them by Santa Claus, Дед мороз, and there is all the same hype for the New Year as there is for our Christmas.
Because Russia epitomizes the concept of a “Winter Wonderland”, mere scenery of the snowy Russian countryside is a magical and festive depiction of the charm of Christmas. I’ve always thought that Red Square, with the Kremlin Towers and St. Basils looked like a gingerbread land, and I always got nostalgic for Christmas time whenever I was there. There are a few icons that are peculiar to the Russian New Year. I found these old postcards, открытки, at sunhome.ru and they depict the very fairy-tale like magic of the winter holidays:
Дед Мороз, Dyed Moroz, Father Frost
Can often be seen wearing the same red coat as his Western counterpart, and just as often appears in blue, which is considered one of the primary colors of the holiday.
Instead of a sleigh driven by 8(?) reindeer, Father Frost drives one two forms of transport, both icons in Russian culture:
The Troika, Тройка, a sleigh with three(troi) horses, can be found all over in Russian literature and it holds a very tender place in many Russian’s hearts.
And the other form of transport that occupies a spot in the hearts of Russians, especially Soviets, the spaceship, летучий корабль:
The space theme seems to come up just as often as Father Frost himself in Soviet New Year depictions. This one is one of my favorites, a hilarious combination of the old Russian traditions with the new Soviet idealogy:
Father Frost greets the astronaut with a Karavai, Каравай, or the bread and salt that is traditionally offered at celebrations.
The other icon peculiar to the Russian holiday is Snegurochka, Снегурочка, or the Snow Maiden. Santa Claus has awkward little elves, but Father Frost has a hot little secretary to help him with is New Year’s deliveries:
I found this postcard which depicts a character from Russian fairy tales, Emelya, Емеля, the fool who snuggles up to the fireplace and never wants to have to leave to do anything. He gets lucky when we catches a magic pike(fish) in the river and the pike tells him a secret phrase to say to make everything obey his will:
I haven’t quite figured out what this has to do with the New Year, but I think it has to do with hopes of luck and success and a minimum of labor. A wish that in the New Year, may you, like Emelya, have every success and happiness, ability to get out of trouble and avoid punishment for your reckless behavior, may you have a princess fall madly in love with you, and most importantly, may you never have to leave the comforts of your warm fireplace to obtain these things. This is the Russian’s ideal year!
По щучьему веленью, по моему хотенью, да будет успех и счастье в 2008ом году!