As 2007 drives to a close, Moscow is getting ready for another capitalist showdown, a vague but highly successful attempt to boost the sales and reduce inventories and also called as the New Year's Day.
As all artificial celebrations including birthdays or days to celebrate the presence of a member of a family (father's day, mother's day), I am not a big fan of New Year's Day in a way that it relights my inner fires of my romantic resistance to evil capitalism.
For more than 26 years I have tried more than 26 ways to "celebrate" that day and failed more than 26 times to spend a day that will mystically calibrate the quality of the upcoming year it represented. Regardless of what I tried (including endless discussions of history at family dinners, a mountain, a freezing Istanbul street, a highly toxic night with high school friends and even sleeping off that day) that night had never set a memorable event like those that most of my friends keep on describing for the first half of the new year.
Although it is not my first year in Russia, which mathematically indicates that I should have spent at least one New Year's Day in here, I chose to join my family in Turkey last year. This year I will stay and co-organize a party that will feature the next episode of a highly anticipated chain of house parties...at least it will be a change.
So how is the New Year spirit in Russia?
Unlike the other capitalist holidays, this one has indeed a history in Russia, which means that it was celebrated in the Soviet Union.
The first difference that catches an eye in a Russian New Year scene is a Santa Claus-like old man in blue and an accompanying Russian girl in a blue-white and highly laced costume. That comes from an ancient pagan traditions where дед мороз (Ded Maroz/Father Frost) and снегоручка (Snegoruchka/Snowfairy) has originated from winter spirits and represent the Russian Winter (I would personally select other things to represent one of the worst weather catastrophes that God has created).
Only in the 19th Century these figures were selected to be the figures of New Year celebrations from a list of western figures that included a Santa Claus.
When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 with a sound belief to clear the fertile soviet minds from all western and christian propaganda, they banned all Christmas and new year celebrations and Ded Maroz and Snegoruchka were to disappear from the soviet households for ever. In 1928, Ded Maroz was even declared as a class enemy and a kulak (which means that it must be exiled to Siberia...if caught alive)
The scholars and enthusiasts of Soviet and Russian History are accustomed to many sharp turns in throughout the turbulent years in 20th Century and therefore the reintroduction of Ded Maroz to Soviet life will not be a surprise. In 1935, when Stalin invited Ded Maroz to Palace of Unions for the New Year celebrations, a new communist figure arose from ashes and in a new "blue" costume (to be distinguished from the class enemy Santa Claus in red). Like all other soviet exports to the eastern europe like oppression, mass murders and poverty, Ded Maroz was another implied celebration to the conquered nations of the Soviet Bloc. No need to say that it was ditched immediate;y as the red stars vanished from the flags.
Now this tradition lives on in Russia but in a slightly different way. Now tremendously rich Russian elite host the rapper Ded Maroz and Snegoruchka strippers in posh clubs and pour vodka over the blue costume...by the way, Uncle Lenin, Happy New year!