Sunday, January 10, 2010

Russian Winter Holidays, 2 New Years Included

Winter holidays in Russia officially last 10 days, from December 31st to January 10th. In the Soviet Union, it was an exclusive privilege of children to have a 10 day long winter break. In the early 1990s, Orthodox Christmas (January 7th) became an official holiday in Russia (the Russian Church uses the traditional Julian Calendar, under which December 25th falls on January 7th as measured by the standard Gregorian Calendar). This caused some inconveniences: people celebrated New Year’s eve on December 31st, had some break (normally, two days), got back to work on January 3rd and then had another break from January 6th to January 7th. Add Saturdays and Sundays that may fall on the first 7 days of the year, and you’ll see how few working days are left. So for the last few years, Russians have enjoyed uninterrupted holidays that end when children get back to their classes.

In fact, the festive mood spreads around offices and enterprises about one week before the New Year. When the West celebrates Christmas, Russian companies organize New Year’s parties, so you can hardly catch managers at the office and in the right mood to discuss your business during the last week of the year. I try to have all my projects completed, phone calls done and problems solved before December 24th.

The last informal holiday in the New Year’s set of feasts is the Old New Year on January 14th. Russians have two New Years within two weeks for the same reason the Orthodox Christmas lags behind for 14 days.The Gregorian calendar (the one you most likely use) was adopted in Russia quite late, in 1918. For a long time, many important dates and holidays had two notices – “old style” and “new style”. So the Old New Year is just a start of the year by the Julian calendar.

The Old New Year is a working day, but many people in Russia have kind of a New Year’s eve on January 14th. This is a less formal and more private event and the Old New Year’s parties are more relaxing. As Wikipedia notes, “for many this is a nostalgic family holiday ending the New Year holiday cycle with traditional large meals, singing and celebratory drinking”. TV channels often repeat their New Year programming this day, so people may watch their favorite shows and movies one more time.