sábado, 17 de diciembre de 2011

Chritsmas Time, by Liudmyla

In our series of Christmas Short Stories we'd like to show you how this special season is celebrated in other countries.
We have students from different nationalities in our school. Here we have Liudmyla, from Russia. She would like to share her Christmas memories with us.

   Christmas Time                                 Liudmyla, 1st Year Advenced Level

Actually, in my country we don’t have a real Christmas feast itself like as you have in the West. Instead we have long lasting New Year’s Holidays which usually begin on 31st December and end on 14th January. In this period most businesses, public offices, universities and schools are closed, therefore one should not plan any business trip or negotiations in my country during these two weeks. The New Year’s Holidays also include  Christmas Day, on 7th  January, which is not very popular to celebrate by our people, because during the Soviet time we were not allowed to do so; all religious holidays were prohibited at that time, so the tradition of celebrating Christmas was partially lost by our people. However, we were not very upset by that because Christmas Time was replaced by New Year’s Holidays -  the most cheerful and important time of the year. These Holidays are the first in popularity in Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine, especially because we celebrate it twice, once according to the old style calendar, which is 13th January, and then in the new style -1st  January.
New Year’s Day is a big event in Russia. People begin to prepare for this holiday beforehand.
Nevertheless, New Year’s celebrations in my country include all the attributes and some characters of the Western Christmas Time. We also have the New Year tree (Yelka), the Father Frost (Ded Moroz), and the Granddaughter of the Father Frost (Snegurochka), and of course festive dinners, dances, jokes, etc.  We usually put our presents under the New Year’s tree or in the magic red bag of  Father Frost. When the Kremlin Clock strikes 12:00 midnight, we raise our glasses of Soviet Champagne and clink the glasses with each other’s. There is a superstition that everybody must finish his drink in a gulp, otherwise it means that you won’t have good luck all along the year. Also there is a tradition to make the most innermost wish while drinking champagne. The next toast follows in 3-5 minutes. Yes, our people drink a lot, especially men, – it is also a tradition.
Most of us believe that the way you meet  New Year’s Eve sets the tone for the whole of the year you have ahead. So, people start to plan this day one month in advance in order to celebrate it the best way possible. We clean our houses, decorate them, buy gifts and presents, cook a lot of delicious food. The famous Russian Salad, which is called in Russia “Olivie”, is one of the main and favorite dishes on the festive New Year’s table. It is accompanied with open sandwiches (butterbrods) with caviar, salmon fish, fried chicken, pork, roast beef with potatoes, pies (pirozhki) with mushroom, meat, rice, sautée cabbage stuffing, etc.
Usually we mount natural New Year’s Fir Trees in our apartments. Artificial New Year’s Trees are still not popular in my country, because we have many fir farms where those trees are specially plant for the New Year. I’d also prefer a natural fir tree to an artificial one because of its unforgettable fresh fir smell.
 New Year is the holiday when all guests are welcome, so  sometimes  you don’t even need to give a call to your friends, neighbors or relatives beforehand, just come to visit them during  New Year’s Night.
After the festive meal in your house you can go out in the streets and gather together with other people around the big New Year’s Tree in the Main Square of the city. It is a tradition to stay awake during  New Year’s Night; people have a lot of fun and really enjoy this party.
Russian Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7th and the celebration lasts for two weeks, it is so called Saint Christmas’ weeks. During this time it is common for our kids to go from one house to another wishing the owner of the house happy new year and Christmas wishes, new happiness, health, etc. It is also the best time of prediction for young ladies. It is strongly believed that prediction is a normal act for young ladies if it is done from  6th to  19th January. This period is the only time for prediction that doesn’t draw criticism from our Orthodox Church. Our people also think that you can predict your future only within this period.Besides, fortunetelling at Christmas Eve is considered as the most truthful and certain.
I remember some of the most popular predictions. The first one is the one baed on the shadows on the wall. You take a piece of paper, crumple it, put it on a plate and set it on fire. When the paper burns out, approach the plate to a wall, light a candle and look at a shadow which the burned out paper rejects on the wall. Value the shadow figures on the wall, what they can remind you of.  One more fortune-telling by wax, which I also used to practice a lot with my unmarried female friends at Christmas Eve. You must just melt a peace of wax in a spoon and pour it into cold water, then try to guess what the solidified wax figure reminds you of. One more fortunetelling , when going to bed, put your hairbrush under your pillow and say: “My fiancé, come into my dream and brush my hair”. You will see your future husband in your dream. In fact, we have a lot of different superstitions that can help young girls to predict their future.
On the whole, New Year and Christmas Holidays in my country are very extended in time, joyful and widely celebrated by everyone.

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