Voices from Russia

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Russians did not Limit the New Year’s Holidays to Parties and Christmas Trees


Over the New Year holidays, Russians not only saw traditional presentations and New Year’s trees, but, they also participated in tournaments of fairytale heroes in Yekaterinburg, exhibited collections of family keepsakes in Kaliningrad, played a little “Old Russian Village Football” in Novgorod, and kids saw The Nutcracker in Cheliabinsk, and 1,200 kids came to the Archbishop’s Yolka in Kostroma.

Yekaterinburg: An Orchestra of “Wizards” and “Beasts” Gave a Concert

To mark the New Year, the Sverdlovsk State Philharmonic Orchestra prepared for children a magical adventure-play Poezd na Chunga-Changu (The Train to Chung-Chang), which was staged from 4 to 6 January, a spokesman of the Philharmonic told RIA-Novosti. Children and their parents waited for “wizards” to play live music, and enjoyed a presentation of dances, games, and quizzes, and for the most fearless and curious, a tournament fairytale characters, the spokesman said. At the time of the show, the hall of the Philharmonic Society became a fairyland forest with a New Year’s Tree, and serious musicians dressed as merry “beasts”, and the sombre black grand pianos were draped to match the multicoloured costumes of the players. The Philharmonic prepared a surprise competition with the Wizard of the Snows, games with funny animals, traditional round-dances with beautiful forest-maidens, and a sea of “beautiful and very familiar music”.

Kaliningrad: A Nostalgic Exhibition

With the help of local residents, the Fridlanskie Gates Museum of Kaliningrad assembled a collection of family Christmas and New Year keepsakes, which will be on display until the middle of January, a spokesman of the city press-service told RIA-Novosti. The organisers of the exhibition Traditions of Celebrating New Year and Christmas assembled Christmas toys and decorations made before 1970, as well as postcards and family photos of those years from Kaliningraders. Amongst the items lent by local residents were handmade toys. According to the museum spokesman, the main task of the organisers of the exhibition was to create an atmosphere of holiday magic, wonder, and expectations of fairy tales and miracles.

When this exhibition was first held last year, it attracted an unusual interest amongst the inhabitants of the city, so, it was decided to make it a traditional event. The basis of this year’s exhibition was last year’s collection, when Kaliningraders exhibited approximately 300 toys, to name just one category. Some of the items were immediately donated to the museum, whilst other owners asked for a guarantee of safety and a return of the items after the end of the exhibition. Amongst the objects on display, some were real rarities, Königsberg dishes with Christmas themes, greeting cards from the early 20th century, New Year’s toys made of pressed cotton from the 1930s to 50s, toys fashioned from ordinary light bulbs, “rain” devised from the copper wire, and much more.


Novgorod: “Old Russian Village Football”

The Folklore Festival Holy Days in Vitoslavlitsakh was held on 8 January at the Novgorod Museum of Wooden Folk Architecture, a representative of the Novgorod oblast administration told RIA-Novosti. The festival invited top-ten-best folk groups from the Novgorod region, as well as guests from other cities in Russia. According to tradition, Holy Days in Vitoslavlitsakh opens with the ringing of bells at noon, after which, those who are attended the festival take part in old amusements, games, and rituals revived by Russian folklore enthusiasts. In the streets of “Vitoslavlits”, people carol under the Christmas star, singing old traditional kolyadki. In addition, there shall be a match of Shchelyge (which scholars describe as “Old Russian Village Football”), skipping rope village-style, stilt races, and snow and ice games. All those who participate in the fun and games, both Novgorodians and tourists, shall receive poteshki, tokens that can be exchanged for prizes in a special “prize shop”.

For those who want to determine their future, the festival shall present a variety of divination methods in the old-style izbas and barns. The festival attendees, as in the old days, could choose to use straw, haystacks, fences, or laptyakh (bast sandals), or look under the dish, or use the hen or beans to guess their fate. Besides, old spinning wheels and looms shall be set up in the izbas, and all who will shall be able to try to use these for spinning and weaving. Visitors shall be able to take part in traditional single combats, and “warriors” from the local Novgorod military history re-enactment clubs shall give demonstrations.

Novgorodians and tourists alike will be able to ride the carousel and on horses. On the streets of the Museum of Wooden Folk Architecture, a Petrushka Booth shall be set up, and mummers and singers shall stroll amongst the guests. Master-craftsmen of traditional decorative arts shall present their handcrafted products. Under the supervision of craftsmen, people can try to make their own handcrafted gifts and fashion so-called “covers” from spill in the “doll shop”. The exhibits shall be open for several hours. At the end of the day, the festival shall conclude with “the funeral of Dudarya”, a straw effigy, which, in old Russia, represented the past year.

The Folklore Festival Holy Days in Vitoslavlitsakh has been held in Veliki Novgorod since 1993.

Kostroma and Cheliabinsk: Celebrating Orthodox Christmas

The Orthodox Church did not remain on the sidelines of holiday celebrations, as it presented concerts and brought the kids to the Christmas tree to give them lots of gifts. On 7 January, the Yolka for the pupils of the Orthodox parish Sunday Schools was held at the Glinka Opera and Ballet Theatre in Cheliabinsk, according to the press-service of the city government. 500 kids were invited to the affair, including students at the Cheliabinsk Orthodox gymnazii (a gymnazia is a traditional high school: editor’s note), the children of Orthodox parishioners, and members of youth groups. They saw a performance of the Christmas fairytale The Nutcracker. After the concert, the kids received gifts, including sweets, soft toys, Christmas cakes, and a specially-prepared colourful collection of Christmas Fairytales. This special book has 92 pages and it was published in a press-run of 5,000. It contains tales for children of Orthodox families, well-known writers from Cheliabinsk edited it, and children’s drawings were used as illustrations.

The Archpastoral Yolka was held on 8 January in Kostroma. In addition, the kids and their parents are waiting for a charity concert to be held three days hence, a spokesman of the Diocese of Kostroma told RIA-Novosti. He told us that more than 1,200 kids came to the Yolka, students of Sunday schools, members of the Orthodox Youth Centre Kovcheg (Ark), and children from the diocesan, oblast, and municipal orphanages and boarding schools. Archbishop Aleksandr of Kostroma and Galich gave his Christmas blessing to all of the children who attended. The traditional charity Christmas concert will feature the Archiepiscopal Choir of the Epiphany-St Anastasia Cathedral, the Blagovest Academic Chamber Choir and Chorus, the Kostroma State Orchestra of Folk Instruments, and other ensembles. The concert shall include a presentation of the Christmas Oratorio written by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev. All proceeds from the charity Christmas concert will go towards the restoration of holy places and construction of churches.

8 January 2009



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