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Old New Year and Other Russian Holidays

Hello wonderful Willametonians!

When it comes to holidays not typically celebrated in the United States, Russia has a whole calendar of them. Literally. Russia follows the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar\Julian calendar as well as the Gregorian calendar (which is the calendar Westerners use). An example of this would be how Russia celebrates New Year’s Day twice. They have what they call the New Year’s and the Old New Year\Orthodox New Year. New Year’s corresponds to January first on the Gregorian calendar, while the Old New Year corresponds to January first on the Orthodox calendar, but January fourteenth on the Gregorian calendar. While New Year’s is a holiday celebrated all over the world, in Russia it is an extremely large celebration similar in intensity to the American Christmas. Gifts are exchanged, trees are decorated, and parties are everywhere. Classic New Year’s movies are watched, there are, of course, fireworks, and everyone watches the clock in Red Square strike twelve on television.

Old New Year, on the other hand, is celebrated in a much more low-key fashion. Russians generally have a large dinner with traditional foods eaten with family, and ,perhaps, sing a few carols. Interestingly enough, they actually don’t take down the Christmas tree until Old New Year.

Other holidays celebrated in Russia not celebrated in the States include Defender of the Motherland Day\Men’s Day (which celebrates all Russian soldiers who have defended their country, and, more generally, all men with gifts and good wishes), International Women’s Day (which celebrates all women and girls with gifts and good wishes), and Victory Day (which is a very sacred holiday in remembrance of the dozens of millions of countrymen who died during World War II).
Regrettably, I haven’t yet experienced for myself the Russian New Year or Old New Year… or any holiday in Russia for that matter. However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t celebrated whilst abroad. My friend Katya turned 20 last week, and I was invited to her birthday party. In Russia (and in many Eastern cultures) it’s expected that the person whose birthday it is takes care of the guests, and not the other way around like in the West. So, Katya bought a cake and an assortment of alcohol, fruits, and pastries for her friends, and in return, she received a plethora of stunning bouquets (flowers are often given in Russia for pretty much any celebratory occasion). I was surprised to find out that vodka was not the alcohol of choice, but that it was rather liquor. My impression is that vodka is generally reserved for men’s parties, as it is indeed very strong (much stronger than in the U.S., in my experience). We made short toasts for a few hours (toasting is common place in Russian society), chatted casually, and laughed until we cried. Then, Katya and a few friends got ready  to go clubbing (meaning they fixed their hair, put on high heels, and touched up their make-up – they were already adorning formal dresses) and gave me a ride home via taxi since I had class the next day and they didn’t. So I have yet to really experience nightlife in Russia (though I have been invited to go to karaoke after I get back from break). My friends are excited for me to sing an English song, because apparently it’s really chic if you’re able to do this without an accent. Wish me luck!

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