New Year is coming and I have prepared a little gift to you all. Just a little story about New Year in Russia.
In Russia, after adoption of Christianity people, following traditions of forefathers, who believed that new year began in spring, when all nature was resuscitating, celebrated New Year in March or at Eastertide. In 1492 Ioann III approved a decision to consider 1st September as the beginning of new ecclesiastical and civil year. At this day people rendered tributes, duties and other taxes to the power. To make this more ceremonial and pompeous, the tzar came to Kremlin where everyone, a simple peasant or a decent boyar could come to him and beg for his mercy. Tzar gave an apple to every man and called him "brother".
The last time when New Year, celebrated with tzar pomp, was in 1698.
From 1700, when Peter the Great, looking at Europe, issued an edict by which New Year was moved to Christmas. It was forbidden to celebrate New Year in September and on 15 December 1969 drum-roll announced the beginning of the new century to people on the Red Square. The priest said that having thanked God and listened to service choral, it was ordered to rich people to decorate the streets with fir-, pine- and juniper- trees and to poor people to put some branches over the house gates. New Year Trees must be ready by 1 Jan and kept until 7 Jan. On the first day people must congratulate each other with New Year and go to the Red Square where fireworks and shooting would begin. It was recommended to shoot from little canons or guns in yards three times and make little fires outside every night.
It was Peter the Great who fired first salute announcing the beginning of the new year. Every toast of Peter the Great was accompanied by 25 canon shots. The sky was illuminated and painted in all colors, people congratulated each other, had fun, danced and made presents to each other. Peter the 1st watched steadily that our holiday was not worse or poorer than in European countries.
For the first time the celebration of New Year wasn't religious. Henceforward, this holiday has been the most favorite and popular one in Russia.
So New Year has come to us with New Year Tree decorations, fires and lights, snow scratching under feet, children games and entertainments - sledge, ski, skate, snowmen, Father Frost and gifts....
It was easy to absorb new traditions, as Slavic people had another holiday "Svyatki" at this winter time, when there were sledge driving, fortune telling, jokes of masked youth and round dancing.
Although it was very cold and frosty, people were not afraid of cold. The dancing around fires could warm anyone.
In the time of Peter, the Trees were not put in the houses, just decorated with branches. But what was before the New Year Tree? There was a beautiful tradition to grow a cherry tree in the house by the beginning of new year in March. Blossoming tree and candles of "peace" round, isn't it marvelous picture? White cherry with tender petals like an elegant bride exhaled fragrance in houses.
You know, the tradition to decorate New Year Tree is more 2 000 years old. Why have people began tree decorating? Because of great magic of tree. In Druid horoscope the destiny of every man is connected with his tree. Different spirits live in your tree, so you need to please them by fruits, sweets and other gifts and evil will go away. It was considered fir branches drew away evil spirit and that's why they were hung near the door.
The firs came into our homes much later, only in 1830-s. At first firs were only in houses of rich Germans in Saint Petersburg (it was the capital of Russia at this time). By the end of the century the fir became the principal home attribute of New Year holiday. But after Revolution in 1918 the decoration of the fir was forbidden as "it belonged to Christmas holiday, so to religion as well". You know, bolsheviks were against any religion.
And only in 1949 1 January became a day off for all people again.
So, as you see, traditions of New Year celebration were created by centuries, maybe that's why we still believe in miracle at this day.
Happy New Year!!!
By Olga Timokhina