Russia prepares for New Year

Yesterday was Christmas day across most of the world.  It wasn’t in Russia.  Russian Christmas follows the Orthodox calendar and falls on 7th January, and this is celebrated to a certain extent.  But the big event is New Year, and this is celebrated in the same way as it is in the West: by the entire population going out and getting completely hammered.

But whereas in the West the New Year party marks the end of the festive holidays and everyone returns to work with sore heads and utterly depressed on the 2nd January, in Russia the party is only just starting.  Or at least, it is officially.  The public holidays in Russia run from 1st to 8th January, but as of today getting any cooperation out of a public body or ministry is nigh on impossible.  Even in the private sector, productivity is falling rapidly as eyes focus not on their work but on the looming festivities.  And from what I hear, the New Year holidays in Russia are as much a matter or survival as they are of celebration.  For not only do the Russians continue their New Year celebrations well into the morning of the 1st, they often carry on until the 2nd and sometimes even the 3rd.  Then as the New Year parties fade into the background, other parties spring up for no other reason than everyone is off from work and they might as well get drunk.  Usually this involves the people who you were not able to spend New Year with, and then once this party is over, you meet up with the lot you spent New Year with and raise a glass or two to the occasion once again. 

The holidays might officially last only until 8th January, but the party spirit goes further.  Not ones to usually bother seeking an excuse to drink and party, Russians have seized on the concept of Old New Year, which falls on 14th January, as justification for extending the festivities for another week.  So the wisdom imparted by Russians is don’t expect anything to get done in the time between 28th December and 15th January, as the entire country will be completely drunk and in no mood to do anything which might resemble work.  Apparently, this includes such activities as filling up ATM machines with cash, meaning you have to hoard it all under your mattress before the revelling starts lest you find yourself short and – horror! – unable to buy more drink.

My wife and I have not planned anything for the holidays aside from committing to be at an all-you-can-eat-and-drink party in the local Indian restaurant (yeah, I know, but it was cheap and the food is great) for a few hours on New Year’s Eve.  I am bringing a warm coat and hat in the certaintly that everyone will stagger onto the street to watch fireworks and yell at each other in congratulation.  Other than that, nothing is planned, and as you’d probably expect from the Russians, nobody else seems to have planned anything either.  But rest assured there have been plenty of promises, which could sound like dark threats to the untrained ear, that “we will drink together” over the next week or two.  This could be my toughest Christmas yet.

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4 Responses to Russia prepares for New Year

  1. Tatyana says:

    Returning yesterday from a friends’ Xmas party in a hired cab which I shared (till their house) with friends of the hosts, the driver offered to give me a lift home (instead of dropping me at the closest subway station), since it was the end of his shift and he happened to live in my neighborhood.
    A Russian? he guessed, I recognize the accent. My wife is Georgian, her girlfriend’s English is similar to yours.
    He said he was from Jordan, in US for 30 yrs, and he was surprised I went to a party “before the Russian Christmas, which is 2 weeks from now”. He even didn’t charge me for the extra ride and wished me Merry Xmas…what do you think would happen if I told him I’m a Jew?

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  3. Tim Newman says:

    what do you think would happen if I told him Im a Jew?

    He might have been okay with it. A lot of Jordanians, especially those who have been in the US for years, have lost the gigantic chip on their shoulder that most of them have about Jews. He might even have been Christian, and loth to take part in the 1976 war, fleeing to the US? Who knows? It’d be nice to think he wouldn’t be bothered, but I am reminded of a story my Jewish friend in London told me about a Pakistani taxi driver who, hearing she was of Moroccon extraction, asked if she was Muslim or Christian. When she answered truthfully, the driver got very unpleasant.

  4. Tatyana says:

    I would tell him if I was asked directly, I have no problem with my nationality; it’s other people who do.

    As it was, there was too much unencumbered curiosity. I was glad to get out of the car at the end; not most comfortable feeling in the world when someone exploits the fact that you’re in closed vehicle and bombards you with personal questions.

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