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[P]
Winter holidays in Russia.

By valeko in Culture
Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 08:45:54 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In Russia, winter holidays are celebrated somewhat differently than in the United States and most of the West. Although the underlying substance of the winter holidays -- presents, trees, family gatherings -- is the same, it corresponds to different holidays and customs. This results from a blend of Russian national tradition, the influence of Eastern Orthodox heritage and of course, Soviet secularisation.

There is a lot more to be said about this than is actually practical, so I would like to focus on two axial aspects that sit comfortably within my sphere of knowledge: New Year and the custom of giving presents. The latter topic is a little more editorial than encyclopedic, but please bear with me. Also, please understand that none of this information is in any way "authoritative." I tell you all this as a Russian immigrant, not as a cultural anthropologist or otherwise a person bearing any credentials or officialdom.


New Year

New Year is the principal winter holiday, as opposed to Christmas. It is universally recognised as such by both secular and religious people. Whereas New Year is mostly an occasion merely for parties and drinking in the West, most of the traditions associated with Christmas fall on New Year in Russia. The welcoming of the new year is considered the most significant occasion of the winter.

The New Year's tree (called "yolka", singular) is identical to a Christmas tree, although of course there is nothing in its name that binds it to a given holiday. It is decorated in the same way, with ornaments, lights and garland. Stars are usually perched atop the tree rather than angels, and ornaments of a religious nature as well as nativity scenes are notably absent, from the perspective of a Western observer.

Folklore holds that Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost") is charged with the responsibility for delivering presents on New Year's Eve. He is a large, bearded and grandfatherly man resembling Santa Claus, although he has no saintly identity, nor sleigh nor reindeer. He is sometimes said to be dressed in blue rather than red - this is a point of contention. Either way, he emerges on New Year's Eve with a gargantuan, overflowing sack of gifts and dispenses them to each family. The actual procedure of doing this is not a significant component of the mythology; he doesn't come down the chimney, but it doesn't really matter how he gets into your dwelling. Perhaps through the front door, perhaps through the window - who knows?

Instead of elves to help him, Ded Moroz has his grand-daughter Snegurochka ("Snowy"), with whom he lives somewhere in the northern forest. Snegurochka is generally portrayed as an attractive young blonde girl, often dressed in light winter attire and sometimes a red cap. (In my experience, she is distinguished by a scarf. At the Russian New Year's parties I have been to, there was always a young woman dressed as Snegurochka, usually in a minimalist outfit -- perhaps a dark or red dress -- but always with a scarf draped about her neck.)

Presents are also given on New Year. There is no requirement of waiting until the morning of New Year's Day to open them; instead, they are usually presented and opened shortly after greeting the New Year at midnight.

Perhaps one would think that with the observation of such traditions on New Year, there comes a certain solemnity that precludes "party"-style celebration. This is not true. In fact, both are easily reconciled. New Year's parties complete with drinking and dancing are in fact very common, especially among young people. (Growing up in America, I've been to a number of all-Russian New Year's gatherings that illustrate the fusion of a warm, solemn holiday with flamboyant parties. First, great care was taken that the children receive their presents as the guests looked on, and once these 'formalities' were diligently taken care of, there followed a long night of club-style dancing that lasted until dawn.)

Christmas is celebrated in Russia as a religious holiday. Because the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognise the Gregorian calendar, religious events are timed according to the Julian calendar. This means that Christmas falls on the 7th of January. In point of whether New Year and Christmas have always held their respective positions, my knowledge is rather weak. As far as I have been told, New Year has always held a position of eminence, yet it is safe to assume that its position as the dominant affair of the winter was bolstered by the official atheism of the Soviet regime. Christmas was stripped of official recognition as a holiday after the 1917 revolution, and it was not re-established as such until 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Some Americans (mostly of the "Christian Conservative" variety) have gone so far as to speculate that this configuration of holidays is a testament to the "repression" of the Russian people. Allegedly, we have yearned all these years for the "true holiday" of Christmas with all our moral strength, only to have our longing cries silenced under the heel of the totalitarian (and Godless) jackboot. The story goes that we've been forced to take what could be salvaged of Christmas and crudely graft it onto New Year, prodded along by our Communist heathen overlords. I really beg to differ. True, public interest in the Orthodox Church and Christmas has been revived significantly since the fall of the Soviet Union, but Russians are happy with and proud of their New Year-centric tradition. I don't believe it's going to change with the flourishing of "freedom" or whatnot.

Presents

I would also like to mention briefly the Russian approach to presents in order to contrast it with what I have observed in America. While the Russian approach is more traditional and European than nationally idiosyncratic, it is still a matter for illustration of difference in customs.

Presents are generally a thing intended to be shrouded in mystery and surprise. In America, it is not uncommon to simply request what you want from family or friends and to receive it without ceremony. This is unthinkable in our tradition. It is a vital element of the present that it is picked out by the person giving it, that it is sincere and comes from the heart. It is also important to be surprised; advance knowledge of your present defeats the entire purpose. Presents are generally things of quality but modest in quantity; it would be considered extremely poor form to have a "wish list" or a "Christmas list" or something so pretentious. Likewise, giving money would be regarded as very blunt, offensive and unrefined. Simply giving someone the means to buy themselves a present is contrary to the entire purpose.

This is not to say that the giver of the present should ignore the apparent wishes of the receiver and get him something totally random. On the contrary, the point is to get someone you love what they want. If you are a parent, perhaps you overheard your son or daughter talking once about something they wish they had. You should keep this in mind for a present. The point is for this to happen by implied understanding, and not by explicit request. It should be a surprise, and should be given based on an earnest desire to please.

It is also a matter of principle that presents retain a fog of mystery. That is to say, it is inappropriate to inquire as to when, where and how your present was obtained, before or after receiving it. It is also forbidden to ask about the price; if by chance there is a price sticker that the giver neglected to remove, you should throw it away promptly and act as though you never saw it. These things simply don't matter. In fact, not only is it a matter of ethics, but seeking information about presents is regarded by many superstitious people as inviting bad luck. The less you know, the better and the more magical it is.

I realise that most things I identify here as "American" (requesting gifts, giving money, wish lists) are not so much American custom as the result of crass commercialism and greed, but the fact remains that they are the de facto practises I have observed. I'm very critical of them and always do my best to give and receive presents strictly adhering to our tradition.

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Display: Sort:
Winter holidays in Russia. | 127 comments (108 topical, 19 editorial, 4 hidden)
In Soviet Russia (1.10 / 28) (#7)
by craigd on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 03:09:16 PM EST

Holiday celebrates you!


A man who says little is a man who speaks two syllables.
Nice Summary (3.00 / 12) (#9)
by bugmaster on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 03:22:26 PM EST

Especially the editorial part about the presents... I still can't come to terms with the American tradition of simply being asked, "what do you want for Christmas ?" I know it's irrational, but to me this always sounds like "I don't care one iota about you, so you'd better give me an easy way out of this stupid gift-giving tradition".

A few minor points though:

The New Year's tree (called "yolka", singular) is identical to a Christmas tree
Well, sort of. The Yolka is actually a different species of tree from the traditional American Christmas tree (which is some sort of a pine, AFAIK). The Yolka is an evergreen tree that grows in Russian forests. It is similar to a pine, but it has much longer, denser branches that descend in the classic triangular pattern all the way down the trunk.
Presents are also given on New Year. There is no requirement of waiting until the morning of New Year's Day to open them; instead, they are usually presented and opened shortly after greeting the New Year at midnight.
Actually, there's also the tradition of "hiding" the presents under the lower branches of the Yolka (you can't do that with the American pine-like yolka-substitute), so that the kids can gleefully find them in the morning of January 1st. Naturally, the official word on this is that Ded Moroz brought the presents, but I'm pretty sure that most kids are smart enough to figure things out :-)

Also, in my biased and completely uninformed opinion, Ded Moroz is actually a holdover from the Pagan days. He plays a part in several Russian folktales, where he is depicted as a guardian of winter, an anthropomorphic personification of elemental cold, whose justice is as harsh as ice. This old-school Ded Moroz does not give out presents, but he does give fair recompense for services rendered. I think that Santa Claus and Ded Moroz got sort of merged together over the years, into the figure that Russians know and love today.
>|<*:=

pfff (1.44 / 9) (#10)
by Hide The Hamster on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 03:29:01 PM EST

simply being asked, "what do you want for Christmas ?"

You were raised by wolves. Real (not plastic) families have a tradition of actually surprising eachother.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
Ah. (none / 3) (#12)
by valeko on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 03:37:21 PM EST

Well, sort of. The Yolka is actually a different species of tree from the traditional American Christmas tree (which is some sort of a pine, AFAIK). The Yolka is an evergreen tree that grows in Russian forests. It is similar to a pine, but it has much longer, denser branches that descend in the classic triangular pattern all the way down the trunk.

Well, I knew there was some subtle difference, but I'm not a botanist. To me they look like more or less the same tree, a variation on the theme of pine. Thanks for the clarification!

Actually, there's also the tradition of "hiding" the presents under the lower branches of the Yolka (you can't do that with the American pine-like yolka-substitute), so that the kids can gleefully find them in the morning of January 1st.

Some families do that, but I think the general tendency is to stay up late on New Year's Eve and open them. At least, that was the idea I've been exposed to. I don't claim that my experience is universally applicable by any means.

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

The traditions... (none / 0) (#61)
by CodeWright on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 12:10:01 PM EST

...described by you and bugmaster are not significantly different from the ones I was raised with in rural America.

I think it's those darn city folk who have cheapened the pagan holiday!

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Customs (2.71 / 7) (#15)
by MrAcheson on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 03:42:12 PM EST

The Yolka is actually a different species of tree from the traditional American Christmas tree (which is some sort of a pine, AFAIK).

The "American" Christmas tree can be many species.  Some are pine but many are fir or other everygreens.  Mine is plastic. :)  Americans usually don't know enough about trees to know or care.  The family of college friend make their living "farming" christmas trees so I found out a bit.

Ded Moroz is actually a holdover from the Pagan days...

The idea of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, etc is probably Scandinavian in origin.  It is also probably a pagan thing since the Scandinavian Santa looks a whole lot like Wodin to my WASP eyes (tall lean man in large robes with a white beard and hair).  We probably got the symbolism from the same place but at different times and ways.

These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.


[ Parent ]
Scandinavian santa? (none / 0) (#114)
by exppii on Fri Dec 26, 2003 at 07:47:12 AM EST

I'm not sure what you mean by "Scandinavian Santa." In Sweden, Santa is called "jultomten," and looks pretty much the same as the American version (google image search for examples). The difference of note is that "tomtar" is also the generic name for small, gnome-like mythical beings who often wear santa-like clothes and assist him, but also have a mythology outside of the christmas holiday and are even occasionally known to be malevolent.

[ Parent ]
Correct (2.60 / 5) (#37)
by jdoeii on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 12:33:10 AM EST

The Yolka is actually a different species of tree

It's called fir. I am not sure it's even different biological species than American fir which is the Christmas tree. If you are not a biologist, you really can't tell them apart. Yolka is Russian for fir. Like dub is for oak or osina for aspen.

http://www.canaanfir.com/fieldview.jpg

Ded Moroz is actually a holdover from the Pagan days

Correct. He is the ruler of Winter (Winter is a female character, sometimes wife of Ded Moroz). He lives in an ice hut in a forest. In the Summer he sometimes lives in a water well (where he can be visited) and sometimes in a far north. Snegurochka is also a Pagan symbol. Russia was christened in 10th century. These characters are from earlier times. Ded Moroz was christianized over centuries, particularly in the 19th century when he was particularly affected by European tradition.



[ Parent ]
Fir or spruce? (none / 0) (#53)
by sv on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 10:52:50 AM EST

By the way, neither I, nor any of my (Russian) friends knew how to say “yolka” in English :)

It seems that there're at least two words: fir and spruce. I wonder, which one should be used to describe our Christmas tree?



[ Parent ]
Yolka vs Fir (none / 0) (#91)
by bugmaster on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:09:24 PM EST

It's called fir. I am not sure it's even different biological species than American fir which is the Christmas tree. If you are not a biologist, you really can't tell them apart.
Actually, you can:
  • The American Xmas Tree (AXT) has branches that angle upward, whereas the Yolka branches angle downward
  • The AXT has shorter, stubbier needles as compared to the Yolka
  • The AXT needles are light-green in color, whereas the adult Yolka needles are dark green (and sometimes an even darker greenish-blue)
  • The adult Yolka trees have branches that go almost all the way down the trunk, creating an impenetrable conical canopy; the AXTs tend to have bare trunks
  • The AXT foliage is a lot less dense, in general
There's some sort of a Yolka schematic accessible from Google, but I couldn't find a real photo... bah.

In general, you're right: the fir/spruce/AXT/Yolka are definitely very closely related; I'm just not sure which one is which.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Yolka... (none / 0) (#93)
by jargonCCNA on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:21:40 PM EST

It sounds like it might be related to a blue spruce. I had one in my front yard that sounds almost precisely like a Yolka. Only difference was the newer branches on a blue spruce do angle upwards... but at the bottom, the spruce was happily resting on the grass... and getting in the way of my mowing!
--
Website Developer. Network Technician. Software Designer. Freelance Geek.

"Is it dead?" "I can't believe that just fuckin' happened! Oh my God!" - Rocco and Murph, The Boondock Saints
[ Parent ]
Presents and OB:real meaning of Xmas (2.54 / 11) (#18)
by pyramid termite on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 04:04:11 PM EST

American customs weren't all that different than Russian ones a generation or so ago - although people might ask, "What do you want?", they were not under any obligation to get it for you, and the mystery as to what one would get remained. Gift certificates were unheard of - 5 bucks for a child would have been OK, but giving much more cash than that (or any for an adult), would have been considered tacky.

Also, it was more understood and accepted by many people that the real meaning of Christmas was not spending a crapload of money, getting a crapload of stuff, or Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or any of that stuff. It was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Of course, K5 atheists and agnostics will shrug that off as irrelevant. But I'm wondering - if you don't believe it, why indulge yourself in the hypocrisy of observing it?

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
what? (2.87 / 8) (#21)
by livus on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 04:36:24 PM EST

I like your post in general but what is so hypocritical about exchanging gifts on the aniversary of an old pagan celebration? And more to the point, on the aniversary of the same thing being done by everyone for every year that you remember?

There are strange origins to just about all modern customs, but to observe a custom simply because you like it, and it is in your culture to do so, is not hypocritical.

Now, what would be hypocritical is if the non Christians all went to midnight mass, put up nativity scenes, and offered prayers to Christ.


---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

Because, for one, it's not a Christian holiday (3.00 / 6) (#35)
by brunes69 on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 10:27:08 PM EST

Christmas was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the Winter Solstice in Babylon and Rome. Around 300 AD, The Pope at the time declared that the brith of Christ was to from now on be celebrated on the 25th, in hopes that he could use the holiday to co-opt in pagans.

Even the Bible says that Christ was born on a warm spring day while "shepherds were tending their flocks by night", which would never happen during the winter.

Celebrating December 25th is no more Christian than biting the heads off of dead bats.


---There is no Spoon---
[ Parent ]

Sheep live in the winter too (none / 0) (#52)
by poolecl on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 10:47:19 AM EST

First, I am not disputing that December 25th was arbitrarily chosen, nor that there is Pagan roots to a winter holiday, but...

I do dispute that the Bible says that it was a warm spring day. "shepherds were tending their flocks by night" would happen in the winter. Sheep do not simply stop existing because it gets cold outside, and shepherds would not have remained shepherds for long if they simply decided it was too cold to work.

[ Parent ]

So let me get this straight... (none / 0) (#89)
by Skywise on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 08:38:24 PM EST

The *Pope* says that the birth of Christ should be celebrated on the 25th of December..

Christmas = Christ's Mass (Celebration of Christ)

But Christmas is a pagan holiday...

Gotcha...

[ Parent ]

Winter Solstice (none / 0) (#106)
by Naelphin on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 07:55:20 AM EST

The pagan version happened a few days earlier, and changed slighly. It was around 19th December. Originally, there wasn't a Christmas as the day Jesus was born wasn't considered very important. Easter was far more important. It was added later on by the church to displace the old Solstice holidays as when it became the official religion f the Roman Empire and a goodly amount of people were still Pagan, and was very effective. If anyone has more details, please post.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I know... (none / 0) (#116)
by Skywise on Sat Dec 27, 2003 at 11:19:04 PM EST

But it's one thing to say that Christmas was originally conceived as a way to divert attention from pagan religions, and completely another to say that there is no such thing as Christmas because it was originally a pagan holiday.

Regardless of motives, the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate Christ's birth.

It's like Kwanzaa... Yeah, it was developed as an alternative to Western Civ's Christmas.  But Kwanzaa is a celebration in and of itself.  So you can't say there is no such thing as Kwanzaa because it was originally Christmas.

(And I'd also like to see additional details on the whole Roman/Pagan/Christmas thing, too.)

[ Parent ]

Dec 25 != solstice (none / 0) (#111)
by Gregoyle on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 04:07:23 PM EST

December 25th was the birthday of Mithras; Mithraism was one of the dominant cults (meaning that many people in positions of power were practitioners) in Rome during the ascension of the Roman Catholic Church.... coincidence? hardly. There was significance in the date being four days after the Solstice.

The Solstice was celebrated by many northern Europeans, but the Dec 25th date of Christmas had been establish long before Christianity had been brought to them.
-------

He's more machine now than man, twisted and evil.
[ Parent ]

My answer to your question (none / 3) (#23)
by antizeus on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 05:01:38 PM EST

Of course, K5 atheists and agnostics will shrug that off as irrelevant. But I'm wondering - if you don't believe it, why indulge yourself in the hypocrisy of observing it?
I don't.
-- $SIGNATURE
[ Parent ]
Why this agnostic observes Xmas: (none / 1) (#31)
by Kasreyn on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 08:09:17 PM EST

Because he has Christian parents and doesn't want to break their hearts. ^_^; And because it's an excuse to get time off work, paid, to be with my family.

If Americans universally decided to give up on Christmas, do you honestly think employers would all go "Whoops! Hrm, well, we'll still give you those X* days off paid, just scattered around the year!"

Yeah, RIGHT. So, in the interests of maintaining my level of paid vacation where it is, I firmly support the Christmas Tradition. :-P


-Kasreyn

* let X = however much time off your employer gives you around Xmas



"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Why this agnostic observes Xmas: (none / 2) (#51)
by dcheesi on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 10:28:44 AM EST

You missed the most important reason:

Presents! :D

[ Parent ]

I see no hypocrisy (none / 1) (#38)
by C Montgomery Burns on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 01:46:26 AM EST

in observing Christmas as a secular holiday.
--
ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD
Intelligent design
[ Parent ]
I Don't Celebrate Any Dates (none / 0) (#47)
by freestylefiend on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 09:46:02 AM EST

I celebrate the gathering of my friends. My friends gather because it is inefficient to be dispersed in the cold weather.

[ Parent ]
Birth of whom? (none / 0) (#120)
by paranoid on Wed Dec 31, 2003 at 08:44:39 AM EST

As countless polls all over the world show, a significant fraction of people (on average 25%) are not aware of the origins of this holiday. Some think it is a birthday of Santa Claus, some confuse it with the New Year. This is true even for many Christians, Americans, etc. Sorry, I am too lazy to search for the links myself, just check out Google News.

Of course, rational people do realise that Jesus was not born on Dec 25 and this date was most likely invented by some stupid 3th century AD monk, who thought it would be cool to have Jesus born exactly 6 months after Johan the Baptist (12x+6 months, to be precise).

And the most rational and enlightened people, whom we call historians, do realise that it is most likely Jesus actually never existed. At least noone is aware of any significant evidence that he did (bible does not qualify as evidence).

I personally think (apart from the fact that I despise holidays alltogether) that the most worthy holidays are April 12 (Space Day, the anniversary of Gagarin's flight) and April 22 (Lenin's birthday).

[ Parent ]

This really does rouse some interesting (1.20 / 15) (#22)
by Hide The Hamster on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 04:53:37 PM EST

cultural questions? Why do we partake in holidays at all? Does it even matter that a culture's holiday has become "commercialised" and perverted from its ancient and gay-assed humble historical origins? I say no. The old Christmas was crappy, gay and boring. I say that the new Christmas is in fact better and is being gloriously ushered into a new era by the mighty and powerful United States of America along with its tagalong Boxing Day-celebrating little brother Canada and consumerist capitalist Japan. Yes sir, the New Better Christmas has done more for product innovation and development of entertainment products than any other fostering circumstance in history. Why is being a drunken atheist partier preferable to stimulating the economy? I doubt there are any rational suggestions in favour of the latter. I shall maintain for eternity that the capitalist urges of the holiday season will prevail over this lame counter-culture urge.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

What has happened to the trolls ... (none / 1) (#39)
by Alienated Buddha on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:12:49 AM EST

The trolls really have lost their edge on Kuro5hin. You call that aggravating? A steroid eating neo-nazi who just lost his mother wouldn't bite that bait.

[ Parent ]
I'm afraid you're mistaken (none / 2) (#50)
by Hide The Hamster on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 10:23:56 AM EST

This is no attempt at "trolling". As I've stated time and time again, I am not a troll. This is merely an exercise dedicated to irritating my good friend Valeko, the Russian communist living in the heart of the American south.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
Spend all your savings and more (none / 0) (#71)
by sctrl on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 02:39:40 PM EST

You forgot to mention what it does to the individual's wallet. But who cares - as long as the economy is doing well, right?
Sergey
[ Parent ]
All economic evidence (none / 0) (#78)
by Hide The Hamster on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:47:31 PM EST

would suggest that excessive expenditure is probably worse for a market economy. However, nobody's forcing idiots to buy shit. If you blame advertisement by the evil capitalist pigs alone on swaying people's spending habits, you're probably a fucking idiot.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
Christmas is the best time of the year. (1.05 / 19) (#25)
by houseof3bees on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 06:23:58 PM EST

This year I managed to save almost $1500, which I spent on presents for my loved ones, to prove to them my worth. That's how we do things here. In Russia I imagine they like to get drunk and have a go at the sacrificial Jew. Different strokes.

--
You are my honey, honeysuckle, I am the bee.

Prove the worth (none / 0) (#70)
by sctrl on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 02:34:43 PM EST

So you have to prove your worth to your loved ones?! You must be so proud.
From your statement I see that you know nothing about Russia and just show off your ignorance in this post.
Good luck with your loved ones.
Sergey
[ Parent ]
The society of consumers... :( (none / 0) (#115)
by taras on Sat Dec 27, 2003 at 11:12:30 PM EST

Do you need to buy the worth of your loved ones?
It's look sordidly!

P.S. It seems that you nothing know about Russia.
------
 My beloved is mine, and I am his.

[ Parent ]

very nice (2.50 / 4) (#29)
by minerboy on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 07:40:31 PM EST

I'll vote this up, but I do think that you exagerate American reaction to the Julian Calendar

Some Americans (mostly of the "Christian Conservative" variety) have gone so far as to speculate that this configuration of holidays is a testament to the "repression" of the Russian people

I live in a part of the U.S. that has a relatively large population of Eastern Orthodox. They have always celebrated Christmas in January, and this was accepted and understood. Sure there is the occasional joke about used Christmas presents, but mostly, It was just one more party for everyone. No thoughts of Russian repression as you mention.



When are you starting valeko5hin? (2.25 / 8) (#30)
by debacle on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 07:41:09 PM EST

I always like reading a nice valeko, this was especially nice to read.

Thanks.

It tastes sweet.

I agree (none / 2) (#43)
by wji on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 04:09:12 AM EST

Valeko5hin is a much nicer name than that silly "Angrydot" thing we had going. Come on, get to it.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
we will not have our name maligned (none / 0) (#80)
by AngryDot on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 04:00:04 PM EST

'Tis a fine name, so says this Dot.

[ Parent ]
Yeah (2.66 / 6) (#33)
by strlen on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 09:04:07 PM EST

I tend to preffer the Russian way of celebrating the  Holidays quite a bit more, in that the commercial feat (New Years) is separate from the spiritual and religious celebrations (Catholic Christmas, on the 25th (which is celebrated in Ukraine, Belarus and western parts of Russia where there is a significant catholic minority, and Orthodox Christmas). Thus we don't have both the religious nuts and grinchy securalists complaining about the commercial impact of a religious holiday.

What's sad in the United States, is that the idea of having a tree in your house, automatically is taken as implying Christianity of your family.

And, it's also important to see the history of this. The idea of New Years celebration and the tree (which is a German, and not a Christian tradition) dates back to Peter The Great, who though to emulate the Europeans, by importing "the holiday season" and the Christmas tree. This practice predates Soviet Russia (couldn't resist).

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.

Correction (none / 1) (#42)
by BlowCat on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 04:02:55 AM EST

Actually, it's western parts of Ukraine and Belarus where there is a significant catholic minority. This territory that was part of Poland before 1939. Catholics in Russia are mostly of of Polish descent, and there are very few of them, certainly less than Jews and Muslims.

[ Parent ]
O Christmas Tree (none / 0) (#86)
by Skywise on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:52:46 PM EST

There are some city governments that declare that a "Christmas Tree" display on public property is indicitave of a Christian display of Christmas so nativity scenes are banned.  (Whereas Menorah's are displayed as part of religious equal time of having a Christmas Tree display.)


[ Parent ]
Tree (none / 1) (#121)
by paranoid on Wed Dec 31, 2003 at 09:00:29 AM EST

In 1920s the Christmas was effectively stripped from all religious connotations, enriched with new ideas (I especially liked the red star on top of the tree), moved a few days and turned into a secular holiday. And contrary to what some may think, this was all done in a very civilised way, not through repressions, but through education.

Later on the holiday continued to develop. A few recent examples related to TV are below:

  1. At around 23:50 most TV channels show a New Year Presidential Address. 4 years ago Yeltsin chose this moment to announce his resignation (as a sort of a New Year present, I suppose). I sincerely hope that Putin will do the same this year. :)
  2. At 23:59 the chiming clock on Spasskaya Tower of Moscow Kremlin is shown.
  3. Since 1990s most major TV channels show a singing marathon (the style varies from channel to channel, but most popular artists are involved in either of them) starting from 0:00 to the morning.
Since Russia is so large, many people celebrate the New Year two times - local time and Moscow time.

[ Parent ]
old new year (2.60 / 5) (#34)
by krokodil on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 09:33:14 PM EST

Many older generation folks are still celebrating "old new year", which is January 1st by Julian calendar. In my family it was usually celebrated by quiet family dinner, without much festivities, but nonetheless certainly as a holiday.  Most people usually do not throw away christmass tree (yolka) until after "old new year" day.

A few corrections and illustrations (3.00 / 8) (#36)
by jdoeii on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 12:13:33 AM EST

he has no saintly identity, nor sleigh nor reindeer

Incorrect. Ded Moroz arrived in a sleigh drawn by troika (three horses). These are traditional Russian New Year post cards:

http://images.cards.mail.ru/0286001b.jpg

http://images.cards.mail.ru/0282010b.jpg

Snegurochka (Snow Maiden, Snow Daughter; sneg == snow, "urochka" is a diminitive suffix) is based on a very old pre-Christian tale remotely resembling Andersen's Little Mermade. The tale is distinctly pagan. Snegurochka's minimalist outfit is a more modern thingie.

http://images.cards.mail.ru/0283030b.jpg

There is also an original twist in Russian Ded Moroz story which has no parallels in the West. It's New Year Boy who is usually depicted as a toddler dressed in red or blue. Sometimes, not always, it's implied that the boy grows old during the year and becomes Ded Moroz.

http://images.cards.mail.ru/o005.gif



well said! (none / 0) (#46)
by maluke on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:40:58 AM EST

"urochka" is a diminitive suffix

well, almost. "urka" would be be a male diminitive suffix. =)

it is a diminitive suffix but i can't remember it being used in any other word but snegurochka.

[ Parent ]

Here is another word for you: (none / 1) (#67)
by Roman on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 01:59:38 PM EST

durochka!  (dura + urochka)

Snegurochka literally means Little-Snow (female).

Durochka literally means Little-Stupid (female person).


[ Parent ]

okay, i was wrong, thanks for example [n/t] (none / 0) (#100)
by maluke on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 07:14:09 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Snegurochka (none / 0) (#58)
by hughk on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:32:22 AM EST

I haven't seen the 'minimalist' Snegurochka, I guess that is Moscow. For us the girl was wearing a white hooded cape trimmed with fake white fur. The dress is also white and long.

Note that after launching a rocket (as in firework) attack on the Aurora one New Years eve, our Ded Moroz and Snegurochka were invited on board to tour the various parties. Our Ded Moroz later passed out with the alcohol. The Snegurochka could refuse the toasts being a young woman.

As for the boy, I have never seen this in Russia but I've heard that the same tale exists in the nordic countries.

[ Parent ]

On The Other Side Of the World - Summer!! (2.40 / 5) (#40)
by estergum on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:47:45 AM EST

Greetings, On the southern half of the world, christmas is a celerbration of the summer.
Its long hot days and we are off to the beach.

In New Zealand the country pretty much shuts down for the week between Chistmas and New Years. The cities become deserted as everyone heads off to the holiday batches.

As to the present thing, its O.K. to ask what someone what they want. Usually the reply is 3 or 4 things that they want, it helps to get an idea, though you normally end up getting something else.

When I worked in the states I never like the idea of being given a present with the expection that I would be exchanging it the next day.

Cheers

Summer in NZ (none / 0) (#81)
by Tatarigami on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:05:35 PM EST

Of course, it always rains like a bastard on Christmas Day, even when the entire week beforehand is clear skies and warm days.

Some traditions we could do without.

I'm looking forward to steaks and sausages cooked on a BBQ, though. Pavlova, fruit salad, a few bottles of lager followed by a few glasses of rum and coke followed by the traditional punch-up with a cousin I don't like much. ;)

[ Parent ]

Wow, things really are upside down in NZ (none / 0) (#108)
by Eryximachus on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 10:55:44 AM EST

I'm looking forward to steaks and sausages cooked on a BBQ, though. Pavlova, fruit salad, a few bottles of lager followed by a few glasses of rum and coke followed by the traditional punch-up with a cousin I don't like much. ;) In the US we have a saying "Beer before liquor and you've never been sicker" and "Liquor before beer you are in the clear". Careful down there.

[ Parent ]
Wow, things really are upside down in NZ (none / 0) (#109)
by Eryximachus on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 10:56:08 AM EST

I'm looking forward to steaks and sausages cooked on a BBQ, though. Pavlova, fruit salad, a few bottles of lager followed by a few glasses of rum and coke followed by the traditional punch-up with a cousin I don't like much. ;)

In the US we have a saying "Beer before liquor and you've never been sicker" and "Liquor before beer you are in the clear". Careful down there.



[ Parent ]
Always take the weather with you.. (none / 0) (#112)
by Alert Motorist on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 09:21:50 PM EST

Overcast both Christmas and Boxing Day in Wellington, typical Christmas.
-- List your horse on FrozenHorseSemen.Com
[ Parent ]
We have more winter Hollidays!!! (2.81 / 11) (#41)
by svSHiFT on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:53:31 AM EST


This article is incomplete.

basicly,  due to the calendar switch, we have more holidays!!! we gladly celebrate the Catholic Christmass (dec 25th), the New Year (dec 31th-Jan 1st), the Orthodoxal Christmass (Jan 7th) and the old New Year (Jan 13th -- the new year in Julian calendar).

Also, we do not mind celebrating the end of Ramadan and Hanuka as well as the Chineze New Year :-) -- we do not care WHAT and WHEN to celebrate -- we just enjoy the PROCESS of celebating ;-)  

From Russia with Love

Evolution of the holidays (none / 2) (#44)
by annenk38 on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 04:12:21 AM EST

Both New Year's (or rather Winter solstice) and Easter celebrations predate Christianity in most cultures. Most of the objects associated with these holidays (Father Frost, a tree, painted eggs) are pagan in origin. Even the name "Easter" originates from goddess (aka Isis), the goddess of rebirth and rejuvenation, and goes back as far as Sumerian mythology. So it should not come as a surprise that the Russian culture has reverted to an older form of holiday celebration.

And if my left hand causes me to stumble as well -- what do I cut it off with? -- Harry, Prince of Wales (The Blackadder)
huh? (none / 0) (#57)
by Battle Troll on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:31:48 AM EST

So it should not come as a surprise that the Russian culture has reverted to an older form of holiday celebration.

Total non-sequitur.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Easter, Isis and the German word Ostern (none / 0) (#82)
by wastl on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:16:24 PM EST

Even the name "Easter" originates from goddess (aka Isis), the goddess of rebirth and rejuvenation,

That "Easter" comes from Isis appears very unlikely to me. It is much more probable that it is related to the German word "Ostern", which does not sound very close to Isis.

I did a little research and found that instead, it appears to come from the Saxon goddess Ostara or Eastre, at least this is what this site claims. Nonetheless, this goddess appears to be a "European version" of Isis (or Astarte) and even of the Hindu goddess Kali, which could be a justification for your remark.

Sebastian

[ Parent ]

Post Scriptum (none / 0) (#83)
by wastl on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:28:01 PM EST

Something more: Ostara appears to be the anglo-saxon name of the German goddess Freyja, who is the wife of Frey. Easter used to be a very important day in the Germanic tribes, as it was the first meeting of the Things and the time when the days began to be longer than the nights again - the victory over darkness.

According to this site (German), one of the best-known fairy tales - "Dornröschen" (Sleeping Beauty) also refers to the awakening of Freyja/Ostara in the Ebba (old tale of the German/Nordic gods), which happend on Easter.

Someone should write an article on that stuff, it truly is interesting. Perhaps I'll find the time:-)

Sebastian

[ Parent ]

The Russian (Slavic?) table (2.83 / 6) (#48)
by vnsnes on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 09:52:15 AM EST

One of the things I miss most about celebrating New Year in Belarus is the table. My Mom and sister would create this elaborate three course feast. Champagne and caviar would be brought out. The table with all its leaves folded out and all of the main course resting on its top would be struggling under the weight. Then all the family and guests would sit down to eat. The meal would be animated with conversation that is interrupted with frequent elaborate toasts and clinking of the glasses. After the meal some would break out into a dance in the cramped apartment space. After midnight we would usually go for a walk outside and talk.

It was just a marry mood. I miss it a lot as I write this. Thanks for the write-up.

Same in Russia (none / 1) (#55)
by hughk on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:24:56 AM EST

The feast is a tradition for New Year - it must be too much and prepared as elaborately as is possible. Leftovers can be eaten over the next couple of days (which is about as long as it takes for the last guest to leave). The apartments tend to be a little cramped, so the table is just moved to the side to generate some space for dancing.

[ Parent ]
American Gifts (none / 2) (#49)
by dcheesi on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 10:16:15 AM EST

I think the tradition of surprise gifts still applies here, but only fo those you are closest to (physically as well as emotionally). Generally parents go to great lengths to hide gifts from the kids, even though the kids have badgered the parents for specific items since thanksgiving :) Also surprise gifts between lovers/spouses are still common.

Where the gift requests come in is with adult relatives and friends living elsewhere. It's hard to know what someone wants/needs if you don't get to spend a lot of time with them day-to-day. You end up either asking them, or getting a gift certificate so they can figure it out themselves.

I do think that consumerism plays a part in this, though. Mostly it's the pressure to buy larger gifts, which in turn makes it more crucial to buy the right gift. Since you're spending so much on it, you want to make sure they're actually going to use it.

the nature of gift lists (none / 1) (#68)
by vnsnes on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 02:20:08 PM EST

A friend of mine made an interesting point about how the gift lists may have started...

He mentioned that many families encourage their young children to write letters to Santa asking for specific gifts. Come Christmas, Santa may bring one or two items from the list. Take out the fictitious jolly old man and lies about being a good boy/girl this year, and you have the adult version of the gift list.

[ Parent ]

possibly the bridal registry (none / 0) (#90)
by Work on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 09:11:48 PM EST

interesting history

Wish lists and the like make sense in a lot of situations. I bet it has a fair amount to do with a substantial increase in disposable income (and thus the increase in goods available on market) as well. Even a close relative may not know the complete interests of a person when they may have in fact, many.

[ Parent ]

On the nature of gift giving... (none / 3) (#54)
by Skywise on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:12:32 AM EST

There's an episode of South Park where Cartman throws himself a birthday party.  He specifically lists out the gifts he wants: "Mega-man Red from Stan, Mega-man blue from Kyle and Mega-man Yellow from Kenny because yellow is the cheapest character and Kenny is poor."  This way, Eric can construct the super mega-man from all 3 characters.  Kyle refuses this sort of crass gift giving and gets him a board game instead (Parcheesi I think).  Eric throws a temper tantrum and the party's over.

Is that a statement of US gift giving?  Maybe.  I've certainly had a few friends that I've thought long and hard over for gifts that have been received with a curt nod and a forced thank-you and that's the last of that gift I see. (In that sense my gift giving turns into a sort of bayesian spam filter... ooh, didn't like that, shift the other way...) (Sorry, gotta keep with the tech nature of K5 here...)

On the other hand, I'm guilty of asking for specific gifts.  Not because I'm a greedy person (okay sometimes) but because my parents don't "understand" my gifts.  Case in point, 2 Christmases ago I asked for Metal Gear Solid 2 for the Playstation 2 from my parents.  I have to be this specific because if I ask for just "video games" for my Playstation 2, I'll inevitably get some cutesy non-violent game or whatever the store manager is pushing that day.  I have to specifically point out Playstation 2 otherwise I'll end up with Metal Gear Solid 2 for the XBox.

"Mom, I don't have an XBox."
"I didn't realize they had different systems out there."
">sigh<"

So what did I get under the Christmas Tree?

"Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions for the Playstation 1".  Which I accepted with a curt nod a forced smile and a thank you... and actually played.  A few months later I was able to bring it up without offending her, wondering how she ended up picking that game (Was the other game too expensive, Did the store manager pick it out? etc)  Her answer?
"Well, it wasn't Metal Gear Solid 1, so I assumed this was the one."
">sigh<"

Now, I wasn't crushed that I didn't get what I wanted, on the contrary it was kind of amusing, lest you gentle readers attempt to compare me to Fester's wife in Addams Family Values who was crushed because she got a malibu barbie instead of a ballerina barbie and turned to a life of crime.  But I think this demonstrates a pertinent point.

Ultimately, the idea of giving a gift is to give the person a piece of happiness.  Trying to guess what another person wants before they know they want it is a romantic notion and, when it works, is very cool.  But A> it can backfire (men who have tried to buy clothes for their women know this is true), B> it's kind of arrogant.  The very idea that you know what's best for another person is... well arrogant.  And C> People are clueless.

States Evidence #2
My sister is a big fan of the Care Bears "Renaissance" (they're being remarketed after a 15 year hiatus).    (For those not in the know, a Care Bear is a teddy bear that has a logo on it's belly indicating what kind of care bear it is.  Luck Bear has a 4 leaf clover on it, Cheer Bear has a rainbow, etc.) I came across a Care Bears Sweatshirt that was decorated to look like Cheer Bear.  It was pink and had the stomach portion decorated as a Care Bear's.  It was also hooded and the hood had little bear ears on either side.  It was... cute.  And I'm thinking "My sister will love it."  And I ask my mom and she's saying "Your sister will love it."  My sister HATED it.  (curt smile, forced thank you, etc  Tried it on once, never wore it again)

Which is why it's ultimately better in some cases to just ask what the person wants and give it to them.  Rather than waste the money or possibly offend the person.

Or at the very least, when you get a present you don't like... be a better bluffer so as not to offend the giver.

re: curt smile, forced thank you (2.00 / 4) (#56)
by Meatbomb on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:30:01 AM EST

Sounds like your family, and the people you hang with, have had too much of exactly what they want, when they want, as they want it in life. You wouldn't be an American by any chance? Just a hunch.

_______________

Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
another pov (none / 1) (#59)
by Politburo on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:59:07 AM EST

some people like to be in control of what they do, use, wear, buy, etc. when you recieve gifts, you are effectively giving up this control. some people, myself included, simply aren't comfortable with that.

[ Parent ]
Well. (none / 1) (#60)
by valeko on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 12:09:47 PM EST

This is really opposite to the purpose of gift-giving. You aren't meant to have control.

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

i know (none / 1) (#63)
by Politburo on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 12:25:54 PM EST

i am aware of that aspect, and it is that very aspect which i don't like. well that is not truly correct. it is not the lack of control, but the implication that if you do not use the item, that some sort of personal slight has occurred. of course, not everyone is offended if gifts are not used, but this does occur. in the inverse, there is the pressure of getting a gift which will be appreciated by the recieving party. because i tend to be picky, and because i am not a person who announces my interests, it happens more often than not that i recieve a gift that i will not use. i also feel additionally guilty in these situations because i feel that waste has occurred. a waste of money to purchase an item i wont use, a waste of resources to craft an item i wont use, a waste of time to get the item, etc. i generally do donate or re-give gifts i don't use, but this isn't always practical. i believe this has led to my general non-gift/small-gift($5-10) policy (not having much money to spend adds to that, as well). in general, any gifts i do get for people are rarely practical items, but smaller, ornamental items.

[ Parent ]
You ever hear... (none / 0) (#62)
by CodeWright on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 12:16:34 PM EST

...of the figurative gift horse?

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
I've also heard of... (none / 0) (#64)
by mstefan on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 01:40:04 PM EST

Landfill.

What is the rationale behind giving someone something that will be discretely dumpsterized shortly after they receive it?



[ Parent ]
You ever heard of "Boxing Day"? (none / 0) (#65)
by CodeWright on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 01:41:06 PM EST

Gifts can be re-given. Quality ones anyway...

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
How charming (none / 0) (#66)
by mstefan on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 01:44:25 PM EST

Sorry, but pawning your crappy gift on someone else makes the Tacky-O-Meter redline.



[ Parent ]
I see (none / 1) (#69)
by CodeWright on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 02:30:19 PM EST

I take it you don't believe in charitable giving? No food, no clothing, no toys.

Screw the unfortunate, toss my unwanted stuff in the landfill?

I think I've got your measure.

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Charity (none / 0) (#72)
by mstefan on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 02:43:25 PM EST

That's a whole different issue, but insofar as charity goes, I give what they really need: money. Trust me, most of them really don't want your orange and yellow polkadotted sweater that your grandmother made five sizes too big. What items they need, they'll buy, and it doesn't require floor/rack space in order to store cash donations.

Unless a charity is specifically asking for clothing, food or toys (and when they do, then what you're saying is fine), save them the grief of having to warehouse your junk and just open your wallet.



[ Parent ]
You're a retard (none / 1) (#73)
by CodeWright on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 02:51:50 PM EST

If I give $200, they can go buy a new sweater... but if I give a sweater to a St.Vincent's, a Salvation Army, or a Women's Resource Center, they then sell it for a nominal fee (fifty cents) or just give it to those who need it.

Hint: if these things aren't donated to the aforementioned types of charitable clearinghouses, there is no availability for low cost or free essentials.

Keep in mind that many people who are financially disadvantaged remain too proud to go on the dole (as you propose), but still need access to essentials.

As someone who spent his youth clothed in St.Vinny's finest, I can tell you that the availability of low cost castoffs was a critical factor in permitting a survivable household.

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
And you're a idiot who can't read (none / 0) (#74)
by mstefan on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:00:37 PM EST

Try to actually read what I wrote. Specifically...

Unless a charity is specifically asking for clothing, food or toys (and when they do, then what you're saying is fine)...



[ Parent ]
Hogwash (none / 2) (#77)
by CodeWright on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:47:29 PM EST

Aside from that parenthetical equivocation, your entire comment derided the giving of anything other than cash.

--
"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Ah well (none / 0) (#88)
by mstefan on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 07:21:21 PM EST

Merry Christmas to you too.



[ Parent ]
Unless you're giving fruitcake... (none / 0) (#85)
by Skywise on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:35:20 PM EST

Then it can be a fun party game...  (Who got it this year?)


[ Parent ]
Very true... (none / 0) (#87)
by mstefan on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 07:18:12 PM EST

In fact, I think it's the law that you must pass your fruitcake on.



[ Parent ]
Umm.. No. (none / 1) (#84)
by Skywise on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 06:32:54 PM EST

My family is actually what you would call "poor."  And while we've not been homeless, we've been darn close.

In fact, they've spent a great deal of their life NOT getting what they want when they want it... BUT have spent a great deal of life learning to do without while still being proud people.

But then I guess such things are missed by hubristic folks like yourself.  You wouldn't be European would you?

[ Parent ]

I'm sorry (none / 1) (#98)
by Meatbomb on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 11:17:52 AM EST

It's just the way you describe in detail the exact products you/your loved ones want, how if it is in the same product line but not the particular specific version you want that that's not a good present, well fuck excuse me but you are just too wrapped up in... whatever. I didn't ask if you were poor, I asked if you were American.

_______________

Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
how insincere of you (none / 0) (#99)
by Squeegee on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 05:38:42 PM EST

I didn't ask if you were poor...

No but you made the sweeping, unfounded, arrogant, and haughty accusation, "Sounds like your family, and the people you hang with, have had too much of exactly what they want, when they want, as they want it in life," implies an upper-class lifestyle. He was merely correcting your judgmental and flawed interpretation of himself, his family and lifestyle.

... I asked if you were American

And he asked if you were European.

[ Parent ]
I'm from Lesotho. NT (none / 0) (#103)
by Meatbomb on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 11:22:43 PM EST



_______________

Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
That would explain a great many things... (none / 0) (#104)
by Skywise on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 02:51:13 AM EST

I don't think any discussion of gift giving from ANY country is going to come off any less than crass when you live in a land where nearly half the population is below the poverty line.

My point wasn't materialism (though it would seem that way).  My point was that it isn't necessarily more noble to give a thoughtful gift than it is to give an item that was asked of you.

The thoughtful gift can, and will, backfire and insult the receiver.  Giving an item from a list is thus, safer.

The detailed examples were meant as humorous sugar coating.  (Humor which can, and will, backfire and insult the receiver in a world forum. :) )


[ Parent ]

And keep in mind (none / 0) (#118)
by toganet on Mon Dec 29, 2003 at 11:57:26 AM EST

That even the poorest person in the US has much more than many people in the Third World.

Homeless?  Shelters, Missions, the Y.
Naked?  St. Vincent's, Salvation Army, Good Will...
Hungry?  Plenty of food thrown away every day -- why let the rats eat it?
Sick?  ERs must treat you regardless of ability to pay.  Gov't-funded hospitals and religious institutions provide long-term treatment for the indigent every day.

And you're whining over getting the wrong game for your waste-of-time console?

(He said, turning back to his Gamecube and cracking open another imported beer...)
 

Johnson's law: Systems resemble the organizations that create them.


[ Parent ]
Parcheesi ??? (2.75 / 3) (#75)
by flippy on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:30:56 PM EST

I think not.  The game in question was "Ants-in-te-pants".

Flippy

[ Parent ]

...and the airlines stop service (none / 2) (#76)
by Baldrson on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:42:13 PM EST

Something I learned the hard way about Russian Orthodox Christmas is the airlines stop service major airports. I even went to the airline to get my ticket reconfirmed prior to the day of the flight and they went through the motions of saying everything was in order.... and then when I was going to the airport to fly out they told me the airport was shut down for Christmas. It was so chaotic that even with all the proper arrangements with the airlines, I ended up in the Moscow airport too late to catch a flight to Seattle until the next week and with an expired visa -- and coming down with a severe cold. Under those circumstances you can't even travel to the hotel on the grounds of the airport to get a room while you wrestle with the consolate -- which doesn't speak English. Fortunately, I was able to go to the Intourist desk and find out how to pay cash to a certain person who mysteriously appeared after hitting an obscure button on a wall somewhere, who stamped my visa, much to the surprise of the Aeroflot clerks who then had to put me up for free at the airport hotel. So I recovered during the subsequent week and didn't see anything of Moscow. It was one Orthodox Christmas I won't forget. The main lesson I learned is you never want to change planes through the Moscow airport without a translator meeting you at the gate and get you either on the next flight or into a hotel. You can get translators from the Moscow Hilton business center if you don't know where else to turn (and you have the cash). I already knew Intourist was realistic about tourists sometimes needing intervention, but it would have been a lot easier to handle the crisis with a Russian speaker on my side.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


Wow (none / 2) (#79)
by CENGEL3 on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 03:55:53 PM EST

Your observations of de facto American gift giving practices are radicaly different then my own.

I was born and lived in America all my life and my gift giving experiences and those of most of my freinds mirror pretty much what you describe as Russian traditions.... except of course, ours occur on Dec, 25th.

In fact, when I was younger my brother and I used to play this game where we would wrap our presents for one another so as to try fool one another as to what the present might be from looking at the package. For instance, we might tape a very small present to the underside of a very large empty box and then wrap it up.... or place a "ticket" to redeem a very large present (that was hidden somewhere) inside a very small package and wrap it up.

Sometimes my freinds and I would also exchange "tickets" ..... which weren't actual physical presents but promises of particular favors. For instance, a freind who didn't have thier own car might get a "ticket" that they could redeem for a road trip to any destination they desired, etc. Usualy those were the best sorts of presents to get.

Of course sometimes people do get so horribly busy with thier lives that they do resort to gift certificates and the like.... that's more the exception then the rule though.  

The only one I know of personaly that regularly engages in the gift giving practices that you describe as typicaly "American" is my father.... funny thing is, he was born and lived the majority of his adult life in Europe.

Kinda strange how peoples individual experiences can be radicaly different eh?

Gift certificates (none / 0) (#92)
by jargonCCNA on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:15:49 PM EST

I find gift certificates are also incredibly handy when you have no idea what the person wants, but you really can't give them nothing.. like for your siblings. I have no idea what my sister and brother-in-law would want for Yule, because I don't talk to them... but I also can't get away with giving them nothing. So, $25 each at the bookstore -- they like reading, and that's a good fiction paperback or two that they'll like. Problem solved.
--
Website Developer. Network Technician. Software Designer. Freelance Geek.

"Is it dead?" "I can't believe that just fuckin' happened! Oh my God!" - Rocco and Murph, The Boondock Saints
[ Parent ]
If giving gifts is a problem (none / 0) (#127)
by rains fall on Sun Jan 25, 2004 at 04:20:27 AM EST

I'm sure your siblings would understand.
fall
[ Parent ]
Ironiya Sudbi (none / 1) (#94)
by mikey g on Tue Dec 23, 2003 at 11:26:09 PM EST

No discussion of the Russian new year is complete without a discussion of "Ironiya Sudbi".  "Irony of Fate (or, Have a Nice Bath!)" is a hilarious New Year's movie.  Directed by Eldar Ryazanov and originally released in 1975, it's been a tradition to watch the film on New Year's.

A general synopsis of the plot: under Brezhnev, many housing projects were built identically.  You'd get the same streets in the same configuration in Moscow, in Leningrad, in Vladivostok -- everywhere.  Even the keys were the same!  Jenya lives in Moscow, gets drunk, and wakes up in Leningrad in the corresponding apartment.  It's hard to do this movie justice; it's quite funny, even to an American audience.  It's a seminal Russian movie.

--
.sig

it makes a poor new year's movie (none / 1) (#96)
by VasyaPoup on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 09:24:41 AM EST

Yes, it does. It's too long and too serious for one. And songs are too serious as well, and more fitted to a drama, rather then a light new year's comedy. I know a lot of people who started to hate this movie just because they show it year after year. A couple of times could be enough. A good example of all-times new year's movie is a Ryazanov's "Carnival night" (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0049397/) It was showing before "Irony of Fate" was filmed, and it's just the right type -- stupid musical comedy. You can watch it drunk, or drunk with excitement, or bored, or underslept. What would you choose on a new year, after all? To have hangover, be disoriented and uncertain, like in "Irony of fate", or to be on a nice show with Gurchenko singing "Pyat' Minut"? :)

[ Parent ]
No way dude. (none / 1) (#101)
by Rainy on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 08:58:33 PM EST

The trouble with Carnival Night is that it's too stupid and aged most of the time. It only has a few good highlights.. The clowns bit, the ballerina bit, a few other small boss' throwaway lines, and lector bit. If you add it all up, it's gonna be like 3-4 minutes out of 1.5 hours? And the rest is incredibly 50-ish singing (with over-pronounced facial grimaces, painful to watch, I can't imagine how painful to perform), and the main lead guy who fell in love is creepy in a kind of slippery fashion. For that time the movie sort of ruled, I'll agree.. but it's a one-minute hit.. Irony of fate I haven't seen fully but the first 20 minutes on rbcmp3.com is quite a bit better. Drunken talk is very well executed, believable, and just silly enough not to be annoying. These first 20 minutes are better than the whole of Carnival Night..

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against old movies when they're good, for example Wizard of Oz is immortally splendid..
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]

uhu (none / 0) (#105)
by VasyaPoup on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 04:13:14 AM EST

Well, I'm not saying "Irony of Fate" isn't great.
It's great, when you watched it once. :)
Ha! Any movie with well-performed, well-fitted in
Ver. Dolina songs must be good. :)

But you watched 20 min of it, while most russians
seen the whole 3hrs movie 10-15 times! So, the
difference of attitude.

I was just saying that stupid old musicals aren't
much affected by how many times you watched it.

In the Irony of Fate, too much is based on the
situational jokes. Like, people say: "Yea, I know
it, now Akhedzhakova will come in and will be
singing 'Na Tihoretskuyu', man, this is boring"

[ Parent ]

Okay (none / 0) (#107)
by Rainy on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 10:27:26 AM EST

I agree that Irony of fate will get boring.. I only don't agree with the bit that Carnival Night is better when watched many times. I watched it once and then I watched the highlights, the best parts, scrolling most of it by.. and you know, it amazed me how much more boring it seemed the second time, despite the fact that I fforwarded most of it!

Any way, there's something degenerate about the idea of watching the same 'holiday mood' movie dozens of times.. Maybe I'm a little too serious about this, but it feels very unsettling.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]

Great story! (none / 2) (#95)
by felixrayman on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 01:55:30 AM EST

I am patiently awaiting your follow-up story, "Summer Holidays In Oklahoma City".

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

good story (none / 1) (#97)
by VasyaPoup on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 10:00:56 AM EST

I have to add, however, that from my perspective, New Year is more of a family gathering, rather than a party. And I've never been on any New Year's diskoteka's (dancing parties).

Children usually had a specially organised show with Ded Moroz and Snegurochka, paid for by one of the parent's employers and there might be some dancing party for teenagers but that's before the New Year itself.

On a New Year family members get together, eat and drink and see the new year's night show on TV and, probably, one of the standard new year's movie like the "Irony of Fate", "Carnival Night" or "Charodei"

Sounds boring, but that's a family holiday after all. Many people like it. I like it.

Not that universal (none / 1) (#102)
by Rainy on Wed Dec 24, 2003 at 09:18:41 PM EST

.. in Russia. I don't think we ever celebrated New Year at all. Also, you gotta consider a very different consumer climate back then.. In most cities, you could not just go and buy something nice. There was more of a get-together thing and put the best (of what's available) on the table and enjoy the smell of the tree and celebratory mood thing.. We weren't excited about the presents, even if there were any they'd likely be very ordinary, so you'd get 90% of excitement from the fact that you don't have to go to school for some time, from the smell of the christmas tree equivalent, and from the overall mood. Presents were maybe 5% of the overall uh.. thing. Oh and at the school's obligatory set-up we'd get a standard cellophane bag filled with apples, crappy candy and stuff like that.. Candy was so crappy by the standards here that when I tried a mars bar for the first time, I was about as incredibly impressed.. I don't think I'd be as impressed now even if I got a $1mil gift. Another thing that impressed me so much back then was a cookie filled with cream and with another cookie on top. It's amazing to reflect now on how great these things seemed back then.

Heh, to a soviet kid, a coke and a snickers bar were an absolute proof that west is light years ahead of us. Even their package alone were proof enough..

And now I can't stand any of that crap :-).
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

Many years ago... (none / 2) (#117)
by taras on Sat Dec 27, 2003 at 11:44:24 PM EST

Ну зачем-же такие подробности вспоминать? Давно это было...

[ Parent ]
Your use of quotes (none / 1) (#110)
by aphrael on Thu Dec 25, 2003 at 11:46:49 AM EST

around the word freedom suggests that you don't believe people in Russia are substantially more free today than they were before glasnost. Would you care to elaborate on or otherwise explain that?

"Freedom" (none / 1) (#119)
by paranoid on Wed Dec 31, 2003 at 08:12:41 AM EST

May be I can elaborate (I do live in Russia now).

We have a constantly decreasing freedom of press under Putin (Yeltsin was much more pro-freedom and was willing to put up with any criticism from the press). Two opposition TV stations (NTV and TV6) were closed. We also have a crawling cult of Putin's personality emerging (for as long as he was the president). This prevents people from really expressing their opinion and generally makes elections a joke.

These are political aspects, but economic ones are more important. We were not ready for commercialisation of mass-media and publishing. As a result, the quality of it drastically fell and people are simply not as informed as they used to be (in all aspects of life, from politics to science). And uninformed people cannot be really free. Another problem is poverty. One English teacher interviewed for BBC Radio said that now she had freedom to buy any books she wanted (unlike in the USSR), but her later remark put this into perspective (her salary is less than her rent). Most people can't afford the benefits of the freedom and so paradoxically end up less free than they used to be.

On a positive note, I want to add that modern state of affairs has one benefit for freedom - the sheer incompetence of the state. They are simply not capable of efficiently oppressing the entire population, unlike, for example, in modern USA.

[ Parent ]

Evil, evil Putin. (none / 0) (#122)
by tkatchev on Wed Dec 31, 2003 at 01:33:11 PM EST

Sir, I think you better get an aluminium foil hat just in case the ever-present putinofascists try to censor your thoughts.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

A different perspective. (none / 2) (#113)
by exppii on Fri Dec 26, 2003 at 07:31:20 AM EST

As a grandson of Russian emigrés who was raised in the culturally active Russian community of San Francisco (for example, I speak passable Russian, though I've never been to Russia), the descriptions of presents being given on New Year's day are news to me. Everyone I know has always received presents on the Christmas day--that is, January 7th. Otherwise, the descriptions of the yolka, ded moroz, etc. are accurate.

It seems likely that the New Year's traditions are in fact the result of a communist co-opting of christmas (ironically similar to christmas having co-opted traditions of earlier festivals). The emigré community does tend to be strongly religious, though, so it may be that it appropriated those aspects of western christmas which gave christmas a higher status. New year's is celebrated, but only with food, dancing and the like.

Also, to those people who deride asking recipients about their desires as an example of crass American commercialism: I think the opposite is true. Buying gifts for a person which are not appreciated or used is just wasteful consumerism.

Yolki polki (none / 0) (#123)
by Tarn on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 10:18:15 AM EST

The Russians have a very curious phrase, "yolki polki" which, according to the Urban Dictionary, is defined as:

russian version of "BOLLOCKS!!"
also means "christmas tree branches"

"aww yolki polki"
"oh no a yolki polki fell off the tree"

As I understand it, the phrase is fairly polite but I never mastered its idiosyncratic usage. Can anyone enlighten me as to why "Christmas tree branches" is used in this way? And give an example of a situation in which "yolki polki" would be used?

I wonder who invents those definitions. (none / 1) (#125)
by Shubin on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 05:40:39 AM EST

First of all, not 'polki', but 'pAlki'.
Accent on A. Read as a in 'car'
Next - it has nothing to do with christmas tree. 'yolka' simply translates as 'pine-tree'. ANY pine-tree.
Another one - it is NOT identical to 'BOLLOCKS' as I can understand from that Urban Dictionary. The meaning of 'yolki-palki' is simple - it is an euphemism. There is a rough word, starting from 'yo...' and meaning exactly the same as the famous 4-letter F-word in English.
Now imagine someone who stepped over the threshold, falled down, started to say 'yoooo...' about this, but suddenly noticed many good people looking at him... He would try to say something else, for example 'yoooo-o-lki'. 'palki' is just a ryphme for 'yolki'. That's all, folks.
There are many similar exclamations in Russian, albeit they are less known, like 'yokharanyj babay', 'yo-moyo', 'yo-ka-le-me-ne' etc.

[ Parent ]
The truth about Russian New Year Celebrations (none / 0) (#124)
by MSBob on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 10:15:03 AM EST

The truth about Russian New Year (and other) celebrations is that the main theme is sitting around a table and drinking vodka until you're unconcious. I've participated in one of those events and my liver still hasn't fully recovered from it :-). That's all there is to it, no more.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

Does Seneca mean (none / 0) (#126)
by rains fall on Sun Jan 25, 2004 at 03:56:59 AM EST

that all rulers are wise?
fall
[ Parent ]
Winter holidays in Russia. | 127 comments (108 topical, 19 editorial, 4 hidden)
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