Counter-culture Journals (文革)

Counter-culture Journals (文革)

Friday, January 06, 2017

How was Christmas in the Soviet Union/ Russia?

While we here in the US are completely done with the holidays, tomorrow is Christmas in Russia. So here is an article about the Christmas Celebration which comes a week after New Year than before. –SJ Otto
Translated to English by Google.
From AlternativeWorld/ Mundo Alternativo:

In the Soviet Union, a place so different from the rest of the world, also celebrated Christmas. With many quirks, but in a way very similar to the rest of the western countries. In the West the party went from being a religious celebration to being a "secular" vacation where families get together, giving a greater attention to consumption. In the Soviet Union, too, the secular character prevailed.

In the USSR, and even today in the countries that were part of the 15 Soviet republics, it is more important to commemorate the new year than Christmas itself. Until the year 1492, the new year was on the first day of March. This year was changed to the beginning of the year on September 1. It was Tsar Peter I, who put January 1st as the beginning of the year in 1700, fitting then with the Western calendar. During the 19th century many of the Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree itself, came from Russia. In 1914, Tsar Nicholas II forbade many of these traditions by being at war against Germany.
With the Revolution of October adopts in 1918 the Gregorian calendar, to be in agreement with the rest of the world. It is for him that the new year is celebrated before Christmas, since the Orthodox Church (still today) is guided by the Julian calendar, which gives rise to Christmas Day on January 7. Since then, the celebration of the new year has become more important, while Christmas is reduced to a more private religious celebration.

Between 1929 and 1935 Christmas was banned due to disagreement between the state and the Orthodox Church. In 1935 the Christmas is celebrated again. The Bolsheviks, seeing that in the capitalist West rich children enjoyed elegant Christmas trees and gifts, while the vast majority of the children had to settle for looking enviously at the rich. This makes in the USSR decided since 1935 to celebrate the new year with priority, with special attention to childhood. So that in the Christmas traditions, dedicate the gifts and the Christmas tree within reach for the children.
The Christmas trees were set up in the squares, theaters, schools, palaces of the pioneers, etc. Small houses were also set up in the houses. These in which they were decorated with all kinds of adornments made of glass or porcelain, headed by a red star at the top of the tree. Families would gather and devote themselves to many foods, sing songs of Christmas, and put into practice ancient pagan traditions of when the celebrations of winter were celebrated.

Day 1 was celebrating a big children's party. The children gathered in their homes the presents that appeared on the tree. Soon in a public place or in a square, the presents were given to the children before beginning a journey of collective jokes where the child was the unique protagonist. Those responsible for distributing these gifts were "Ded Moroz" (Grandpa Frosty) and his granddaughter "Snegurochka" (Snow Maiden). The "Ded Moroz" is the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, and is always accompanied by his granddaughter. By receiving the gifts the children make promises concerning their behavior or studies.
The largest and majestic tree was installed at the entrance of the Kremlin, it was the tree of the USSR, and there came the Muscovite families as tradition. Lights and decorations with flower wreaths and papers made the streets look beautiful, the shop windows were filled with their finest produce, and people bought many things for dinner. In that sense, the Soviet Christmas was exactly the same as in the West. During the holidays, typical songs were played, films of the time, as well as Christmas cartoons where they mixed old traditions and Christmas tales with new entertainments for the children, the young inhabitants of the Soviet Union.

Last night of the year the families would gather for dinner and drink. It was tradition to bring new clothes, to eat and to drink a lot, with much noise, laughter and euphoria. "It will pass the year just as you will receive the other," commented all the Soviet families. Television was broadcasting the bells of the Kremlin, and at the end the bottles of Soviet champagne burst. Then the television relayed a special program with the main artists of the moment, and other celebrities like Yuri Gagarin in 1962.

Especially the festivities in the war years were harsh. In 1942, Leningrad surrounded by Nazi troops, the Soviet authorities decided to celebrate the feasts even in those apocalyptic circumstances. The object was to disturb the life of the children as little as possible in the midst of those brutal circumstances. In those years, soldiers celebrated the New Year by painting the tanks with a New Year's salute. Ded Moroz handed the presents in the Red Army uniform. But if there was a special party, this party was the one in 1946 where the sadness of the lost family mingled with the joy of victory.

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