The Old and New Christmas, New Year pines, and Other Weird Stuff about Russian Holidays

    Hey there, folks! It has been a while, right? Have you missed me? I’m pretty sure you didn’t, and yet again I’m writing another article full of bad jokes only for you! You should admire my tenacity.

    We have just been through the New Year holidays in Russia. God, am I glad we have over 7 official holidays! There are a few traditions in the end-of-the-year celebrations in Russia that differ from any other part of the world, in the sense that they are sooo weird. For example, they have two dates for Christmas and New Year, and there’s no gift-giving on both Christmases. Russians, amirite?

So I decided to dedicate some time to write about them. After all, I got a lot of free time this week!

The only right way to celebrate New Year in Russia
(photo: eadaily.com)

The Old and New Christmas 

    It all changed when the fire nation attacked with the Romans, or to be more specific, with the Gregorian calendar. The western world switched calendars, one thing led to another, and a few thousand years worth of history books later, we got the western Christmas on the 25th of December. The Orthodox Church, however, still uses the Julian calendar in order to celebrate all of its significant events. Only God knows why. Did you see what I did there?

    So the Russians still celebrate Orthodox Christmas, which happens to be on the 7th of January, according to the dates set by the Orthodox Church. If you think the weirdness stops here, you are quite wrong. Despite the fact that the official New Year’s Eve is on December 31st, Russians also celebrate an “Old” New Year on the 13th of January. Are you mind-blown? I was mind-blown when I found out.

    Now, I know what you are thinking. How can you celebrate Christmas after the New Year? That is simply not how things are done. You are totally correct to think that. I don’t understand it either, but different from our Western traditions, the Orthodox Christmas is more of a religious event, and not really the Christmas party westerners are used to have. No Christmas dinner or gift-giving, only praying the whole day and night. Boring as hell, I know. Did you see what I did there again? Boring as hell. Christmas.

    I should note that celebrating Christmas on the 25th is getting more popular in Russia, specially between those who don’t follow the Russian Orthodox Church. 

Speaking about gift-giving

    Well, if Russians don’t exchange gifts on Christmas, when they get to do it? Never, because gift-giving is only for capitalist pigs such as you and me. Oink-oink. I’m kidding, they give gifts on the New Year’s Eve. Which is also weird, but I guess it’s better than never giving any gifts to each other. 

     Just like in the western countries, Russians put their gifts under their Christmas Tree. Except it is not called a Christmas tree, but a New Year tree. Yes, you read that right. In Russia, you have only New Year Trees, or “New Year pine” to be more accurate.

You might be asking yourself how come they call it a Christmas Tree a New Year Pine and why exchange gifts during the New Year’s Eve. This is because of the religious repression Russians suffered during the Soviet Union. Because of all that atheist religious-is-the-opium-of-the-people stuff, lots of traditions with religious origins had to be changed or adapted as to not offend the state. Christmas was no exception, so for a long time Russians simply transformed it in a New Year event, and I suppose now it’s just useless to go back to how things were.

What about the 7 Official holidays? 

    That’s one of the best things about New Year in Russia! At least, when you are not in a desperate need of government services, because you are out of luck if you need documents done in the first half of January. All the days between the 1st and 7th of January are official holidays and therefore if you are a regular employee, you don’t have to work. If you do have to work, assuming you are not a poor freelancer, you get double-pay for working these days, according to Russian labor laws.

    And it gets better! In Russia there is also a law that transfers holidays that fall on weekends or in the middle of the week. What does this mean? It means that, for example, in this year, 2021, all 7 official holidays plus weekends makes for 31st of December through 11th of January as non-working days, which is totally amazing. I love Russian laws. Never criticized them. Please keep adding holidays.

    Well, for today, that’s it. I don’t like to think too much. I have a terrible hangover, and it hurts to think. 

    Have I missed something about holidays? Should I rant about the Russian Salad? Or list all the reasons why there’s no need for a presidential address on the New Year’s Eve? Give me some feedback in the comments! Maybe next week I’ll share some crazy stories of my New Year celebrations in Moscow as a student. Those were pretty fun times.

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