As the days rush by faster and faster to the end of the year I’m finding myself desperately trying to finish off all unfinished business and tie up any loose ends. I’ve always said it’s a Russian thing as I’ve madly summarized my years in the past but many cultures regard the new year as a new start and its logical that we must first finish and leave behind the current year. Back in September, I shared with everyone my Aussie festive season experience past. Then I shared with you my 12 Pubs of Christmas experience of Edinburgh. As promised, this is time to talk about the Russian festivities.
I’m currently sitting in one of my favorite Gertrude Street (in the Fitzroy neighbourhood of Melbourne) cafe called Arcadia after a Friday morning barre class. My day job is wild busy just now so I’ve taken a sort of overtime morning off. Normally, I would have fitted in a class, a brow appointment, a walk with Didi, a meeting and a coffee with a girlfriend into these hours. But today I have intentionally parked myself with my laptop over a lazy brunch in the attempts to clear out my head. I’m currently going a little crazy as a Russian woman. I am trying to finish up my year and make sure to start the New Year on the best possible foot.
Russians are quite inspired by the Chinese Zodiac calendar. As every year has an assigned Zodiac sign, we do our best to greet the year in the most pleasing fashion to the coming animal in hopes that it will bring us good fortune. So naturally the other day when I got an email from my Aunt Lena in Moscow saying that the “Rooster is going to fuck the Rabbit”, I freaked out and became a little mental.
Now to clarify a little, my aunt actually said words to the extent of, “Darling, I’ve just read that the year of the Rooster is going to be very difficult for the Rabbit and you should prepare for a challenging year to come. It notes especially that your financial situation will be put under pressure as the Rooster constantly pecks at the Rabbit and picks on him all year.” When I read this, I put down my phone and after a minute of silence, started yelling “THE ROOSTER FUCKS THE RABBIT!” over and over again. My poor partner stared at me somewhat bewildered and finally asked me what was the matter. I calmly tried to explain to him that 2017 is the year of the Rooster and my Zodiac sign is the Rabbit and that they do not get along. Here’s a link to what that is going to look like according to the Astrology Club online.
I’d like to pretend that I’m all zen about this now and have made a plan, but that’s just not the case. I know me, and this is not my first Russian New Year, and I know it will come together as it should. Once I’ve finished work for the year, and Christmas is over with, I will take some time and centre. I will take the time to gain closure on the year that was with all of its challenges and wins. In Russia, we have a saying that how you greet the year is how you will spend it. This is actually fact and I will bring my own personal evidence to prove this saying true.
In Russia, regardless of how much you choose to subscribe to the Chinese Zodiac predictions, most people are quite big on this ritual of finishing this year’s business in order to start the new year fresh. For me this means leaving my work desk tidy, sending those put off emails and the same goes for my personal life.
Most Russians, or at least in my experience, like to spend New Year’s at home with the family, a huge feast and gifts. Russian Orthodox Christmas is a religious holiday that was banned during the Communist era, so New Year’s Eve is the big family holiday when Ded Moroz comes.
If you’re spending New Year’s at home, you will make sure to finish up any business there – such as getting those drapes fixed and fixing that leaking tap (faucet). Then you will put on a massive feast and if you do the Zodiac thing, then you’ll make sure to include dishes that would be pleasing to the coming animal. This means that you are welcoming them into your home and in exchange they will grant you good fortune.
The 31st of December is also the day Russians typically put up the Christmas tree. So on top of cleaning and fixing up your house, cooking a grand feast, stocking up on the booze and wrapping the gifts – you must also deal with the tree. It’s a pretty crazy but fun day and at the end of it, you do the best you can and know that your intentions are good and you did the best you can. We start drinking (lightly) at about 7pm as we carry on with the preparations. The aim is to greet the year at the stroke of midnight around the festive feast with your friends and family so you don’t want to be drunk at midnight.
My favorite part of the Russian New Year’s is the personal cleansing that happens before midnight. So you’ve been running around like mad all day and you can’t greet the year with last year’s sweat all over you! What will the Rooster think?! So we all tend to have a shower as close to midnight as possible, allowing enough time to still get dolled up. Everyone goes in for a quick rinse – remember that we are a little tipsy at this stage and in general good spirits and laughing. Then you put on your special festive New Year’s outfit. The outfit has to be new, in order to bring good fortune and preferably in pleasing colours to the coming animal. My hot tip this year is that brown, yellow and gold are the way to go. I generally get my tips from a hairdresser, shopkeeper or by overhearing it on the bus. It’s kind of like we’re all part of the same festive conversation across Russia and is one big game of semi-superstitious Chinese whispers. Anyway, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on your new outfit to bring the best fortune. That’s not the point. The aim is to be clean and fresh and to have good intentions for the coming year.
So you’ve prepped the feast, the tree is up, got your party dress on and a glass of bubbles in hand! You’re now ready to greet the New Year!!
This is a ‘to be continued’ post and next week I will share how my Aussie partner spent his first Russian-style New Year’s in Moscow with me last year and how the Russian saying “How you greet the year is how you’ll spend it” came true for us in Melbourne in 2016!
Headline photo caption: 2016 TSUM department store window display inspiring those New Year’s Eve party outfits.