Of course the Russians are celebrating New Years, not Christmas. (and the second is advertising the newest something in the cosmos, but my Russian dictionary is at home, and I’m in an airport, so I can’t figure out what.)
Russian was actually my first language, but I haven’t spoken it in decades. It’s very weird when you open your mouth to say something and suddenly realize your brain has put all the words in archive storage somewhere.
Anyway, the first card is the Russian equivalent of “Happy New Year!” The second expresses the same thing with an added “to new successes in space!” In the sense of a toast, like “Here’s to a Happy New Year and to etc.”
The Russian Santa Claus analogue is actually Grandfather Frost, not Father Christmas. And I seem to remember that Old Man Frost goes right back to pagan times. (?) He’s associated with the solstice as well as (now) Christmas. Either way though, the Russians are huge romantics and sentimentalists. Even the Communists weren’t dumb enough to try to deprive them of Grandfather Frost, no matter what associations had crept in.
Whenever I’m backpacking, I still crave hot Tang. It’s what I used to use on the trail back in the early 80s as a kid. The Tang helped cover the taste of the bleach with which we treated the water to make it potable.
Quixote is my neighbor, my first language was Polish and similarly I haven’t used it functionally in about 40 years. The communists have not destroyed religion; people still believe and practice. But the Russians are Orthodox who, according to some jokes, celebrate Xmas in October or am I confusing them with the Canadians and Thanksgiving? Who cares.
As a Russianist/Central Asianist, I have to say I love those first two cards. And want my own pair of star-spangled (and sickled?) jammies that double as a cosmonaut suit.
New Year’s in Russia and the former Soviet Union in general is more equivalent to the West’s (secular) Christmas. The film that is as beloved and regularly watched during the holidays as “It’s a Wonderful Life” is based around a New Year’s celebration gone awry. The film is “Ironia Sudby, ili s Legkim Parom!” – “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!”
It’s not just communists that don’t celebrate Christmas. The Presbyterian Church in Scotland banned it after the Reformation (1560) and tried to stamp down on any celebrations for a long time afterwards. It did not become a public holiday until 1958. Despite this, Christmas was celebrated privately in Scotland, but New Years was bigger as we get two public holidays (1st and 2nd Jan). (The Kirk wasn’t too happy about New Year’s celebrations either, but they weren’t banned.)
Wow–I had no idea that Christmas was banned in Scotland until 53 years ago! That’s wild. Was it also related to the *Englishness* of the modern holiday as it’s celebrated in Britain and in much of the Anglophone world? (U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zeland, etc., with Christmas pudding at least in the former commonwealth countries, and annual performances of A Christmas Carol?)
I too love the jammies, Russ’ann and kimbrulee. Totes. We must get letters up to Grandfather Frost before it’s too late!
The original idea behind the ban, which was accompanied by restrictions on many other festivities incl. weddings and funerals, was that such festivities were ‘supersticious and idolatory’. They associated ‘the pomp’ with the Catholic faith and it was part of how the Kirk defined itself as a new and different church, from its predecessor. They also did not allow any music in church, for example; it was a very staid religion. As the Kirk courts were fundamental to policing and community discipline, the Kirk tried to enforce this for several hundred years (not always very successfully- people like their parties and Yule had been a big holiday in the Catholic faith and earlier as the Winter Solstice). In the late-18thC, with greater religious toleration for other faiths and the development of parallel secular kirks, the Kirk’s power to discipline declines, and this is one set of legislation that the state didn’t try to enforce with any fervour. It sometimes issued proclamations and fines, but eventually, these sorts of festivities became more acceptable and nobody enforces non-celebration.
By the time, Christmas gets its modern makeover in the 19thC, Scotland is broadly adopting the same fashions in its celebrations as everyone else. Except, of course, that it’s not a holiday, so if it fell on a weekday you had to work. Plus the strict parts of the Presbyterian church that stuck to the original rules wouldn’t have celebrated it (other parts of the church and other churches start to relax, introducing music and other celebrations into church life). This meant that it wasn’t so central as a holiday as New Year where people had time off and we have lots of rituals around New Year festivities. Today, where Christmas has been a holiday for 50 odd years, it is becoming more central as a festivity, especially as it represents privacy and family better than New Year which is very much about community and visiting neighbours. So, people now often ‘don’t celebrate’ New Year, so they don’t have to open their doors to the community. Which is sad in a way, but interesting…
As a child of the Cold War/space race I would still submit that its most amazing episode was not the lunar landing itself but Apollo 8, which was the first expedition ever to leave the Earth’s orbit and then go into a 24-hour long orbit around the Moon. It was typical of NASA’s conservative “try-every-intervening-step-first” culture, but it provided the first ever picture of the entire Earth framed in black space, and the iconic “Earthrise” image. In a lot of ways it made the landing anticlimactic–save for the voyeuristic NASCAR “maybe it’ll crash” element. It reached lunar orbit late in the evening on Christmas Eve (1968). After the requisite hours- long television extravaganza most networks cut to local news, save for Channel 13 in Newark, which had teed-up an animated Czechoslovakian-produced film version of the story of Baron Muenchhausen. That was even more fantastical, literally, than the space extravaganza. It included a scene in which Cyrano de Bergerac tries to levitate himself to the moon by lying down on the wet grass and waiting for evaporation to launch him and closed with him flinging his chappeau moonward with the invocation that “the Moon is no longer a dream…” Anyway, that’s what I remember of it from that many years ago. A pretty good programming choice coming out of Newark, I would say.
New Years in the former USSR is just as commercial and almost identical to Christmas in the US. This is true even in the nominally Muslim republics. In the nearly four years I lived in Kyrgyzstan I did not notice any substantial differences on this account. Actual real Christmas is of course celebrated by Russians and other Orthodox believers in January due to their use of a different calender.
See Stephen Nissenbaum (the Salem witchcraft scholar), _The Battle for Christmas_ (Vintage, 1997), for an account of the American side of this story. Even as late as, say, 1776, the Hessians were a whole lot more into this thing than the “Americans” were. I think George III negotiated with Catherine the Great for mercenaries before settling with the Elector of Hesse-Cassel. It could have been Cossacks at Trenton, as I remind my students. THAT might have gotten interesting.
One of my favorite all-time Soviet photos was from an Uzbek newspaper in the Khrushchev period, showing a group of little Uzbek kids dancing around the New Year’s tree with Grandfather Frost. The holiday symbolism got completely secularized and turned into a symbol of russified Soviet national identity. I believe that for Orthodox Christians December 6, St. Nicholas’s Day, is the bigger religious observance (but I’m Jewish, so don’t quote me).