Thursday, December 25, 2008

Russian Winter Holidays

My colleagues from outside Russia are all offline in their IMs and Skypes, there are much fewer emails in my inbox, my phone keeps silence since December 24th. What a contrast compared to what it was just a few days ago!

In Russia, people are still working hard to get all things done until the last day of the year. Russia is celebrating New Year on December 31st and Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. This Year Russia officially is on vacations from December 31st to January 10th.

When I was a kid, long winter vacations were a student privilege only. My parents and all other adults had working hours shortened on December 31st and were back to work on January 2nd . Soviet Union was an atheistic country, so nobody celebrated Christmas. In our family it was only me, a student, who could enjoy the whole ten days of vacations skiing, skating, snow-balling and, when the weather was extremely cold for outdoor activity, reading books, that I liked (and still like) very much.

By the end of the Soviet Union, Orthodox holidays was officially returned to our life, and January 6th -7th, Orthodox Christmas, got a status of a non-working days. Sometimes, days between the New Year and Christmas are working days, and sometimes holidays are prolonged for a week or even longer.

There is another winter holiday in Russia and some other countries – Old New Year, the start of the New Year by the Julian calendar, January 14th. Russia has adopted Gregorian calendar back in 1918. The Orthodox Church continued using Julian calendar, so “old style holidays” and “new style” holidays coexist since 1918. Many people do not link Old New Year to the Orthodox Church calendar. Thus my parents explained me that in tzar’s Russia people had a calendar that differed from the one used in rest of the world. Then Soviet Russia turned its calendar up in order not to lag behind other countries for two weeks. The Old New Year is an unofficial holiday, however the tradition of celebrating the coming of the New Year twice is widely enjoyed. If you have business with Russia, note that on January 14th, many companies may cut their working hours and have a nice, informal party.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2009!

Shy Santa