Season’s Greetings dear friends, long-time readers and first-time callers! I hope all of you who do the Christmas thing have had a wonderful time and those of you who do the Boxing Day sales have made it out alive – with a truck full of bargains and all of your own limbs intact.
I spent Christmas with my partner’s family in the north country of Victoria (the state of which Melbourne is the capital city). It was a really lovely and relatively relaxed celebration with all the kids, partners and dogs along the mental weather that we’re accustomed to this time of year. Then my partner and I enjoyed some time at home recovering from the year that was with lots of eating, sleeping, wine and air-conditioning.
We’ve also been having way too much fun experimenting with our new Sodastream gifted to us by my partner’s gorgeous sister. Apparently you shouldn’t do that and the Internet is full of videos that explain why, but we’re all adults here.
Now that Christmas and the working year is behind me (I hope it’s also the case for many of you but a quick shout out to all those who have to keep working. You’re doing a great job and we really appreciate the cool things that you do like emergency services, banking functions, tequila shots and burgers!), I finally get to do all of my planning and stressing for my Russian-style New Year’s Eve celebration. I’ve started planning the menu, my outfit, my tree and other decorations and have booked all of my beauty appointments. For the back–story on all this madness, please follow this link to my last post.
Over the last couple of days my partner and I have done a lot of talking about how we would like to greet that New Year and we have on several occasions decided that nothing beats a Russian house party for New Year’s and that’s what we’re going to do. For full disclosure, my partner isn’t Russian. He has, however, experienced a New Year’s Eve in Moscow and what can I say? We had a lot of fun! So the following tale is how we greeted the current year, on the 31st of December 2015 in Moscow – the year of the Monkey.
First thing in the morning, well ok, at about midday I had a hairdressing appointment with my Moscow stylist, Volodya. He is such a sweetheart and every time I’m in Moscow I make sure to see him to maintain my Moscow girl look. Ha! No. No one in Moscow thinks I’m a Muscovite, just like no one sees me in Melbourne as a Melbournian. Expat issues, am I right?!
After I was done with Volodya, my partner and I went to visit my grandparents. Luckily they live (by Moscow standards) really close and it’s only about 40 mins door to door from my Aunt’s place – AKA my Moscow home.
While we were at their place, we had lunch (a two-hour feast) of all the imaginable treats in the world! My babushka (gran) is an incredible cook and when I’m there I do not think about my waistline and I eat until my cheeks are as full as a chipmunk’s. The feast always starts with a soup course. On this visit it was Solyanka, or as I like to call it 12 Creature Soup. Occasionally babushka forgets that I’m a pescetarian and serves me meat dishes. To be honest I think she tried to forget because Russians don’t get not eating meat. There was this one time I was at her place and she was really keen for me to try this new Kielbasa (Eastern/ Central European kind of sausage/ cured meat/ small goods) but I kept politely refusing, so she says to me:
“Darling, don’t eat it. Just put it in your mouth to get the flavors and spit it out!”
I replied, “Yeah, but babushka, that’s still made from dead animals.”
“Dead?!” She laughed in reply. “What’s dead? This is the freshest Kielbasa! It was practically running around just a minute ago!”
And so we agree to disagree on the meat dishes. I just ate the delicious Solyanka babushka made, and spat the meat out as best as I could. Then there was a fish dish with a side of potatoes, three kinds of Pierogi (These are different to the Polish Peirogis. The Russian ones are more pie-like than dumpling-like. What the Polish call Peirogi, the Russians call Pelmeni.), two salads and the rest of the table was packed with Zakuski.
By the time we managed to wrap up our visit, not only had we both gained 2kg each but we were also packed a goodie bag of all of the above to save us cooking for the New Year’s feast. This was actually super awesome because I’m not exactly into cooking and it was about 6 pm by the time we left their place. We got back to ours, to unpack the goodies and place the obligatory call back to the grandparents to thank them for having us and let them know that we made it home safely. During this particular call it was also allowed my grandparents to give me an honest review of my gentleman lover. They highly approved!
One thing leads to another and it’s 8 pm and we’re leaving the house to pop down to the local H&M for our New Year’s party outfits and to stock up on alcohol for our party of two at the nearby supermarket. We also had to buy a tree, decorations and sneakily buy each other gifts. No pressure, right? Just 4 hours before midnight! Anyway, we somehow pulled it off and returned home at about 10 pm with our outfits, a tiny fresh tree, decorations, 3 bottles of fizzy wine and 2 bottles of vodka. Us Russians are very keen on fizzy wine on New Year’s and one must have a flute or a coupe of it when the clock strikes twelve.
We decorated the tree, the house, set up the feast on the table, finished all of our little pending house chores, had showers, put on our party outfits and sat down at the table about 11.30 pm.
In the background of a typical Russian New Year’s house party, the national network’s variety concert is always playing. It’s quite common to set up the table in the room with the television too. It’s generally background entertainment while everything is getting prepped. Then the president makes a speech in the last couple of minutes of the year, fireworks over Red Square go off, we pop the fresh bottle of fizzy wine, kiss and then run outside to light the sparklers! It’s my favorite time of the year. Those last couple of minutes counting down to the New Year and the first few moments once it’s upon us! Everything is new, possible and there’s a kind of magic in the air that I’m smiling about as I write this.
Miles away from Moscow where we met the current year, I’m starting to prep for the 31st of December 2016 in Melbourne. So on that note, I must get back to my planning and sign off for the year! I wish you all a successful farewell of 2016 and fabulous greeting of 2017. I’ll leave you with a toast … or the first three as we drink to with my Aunt in Moscow.
Toast 1 – You drink for the meeting, ie new friendships that are cultivated around that drink.
Toast 2 – You drink for love.
Toast 3 – You drink so that the distillery (or in Russia it’s more like the liquor/vodka factory) doesn’t burn down! *This is of course a comical toast and basically symbolizes the start of the party.
Toast 4 – Is for whatever your heart desires!
Happy 2017 and may the Rooster bring you good fortune!