guest post: a Tashkent New Year

Note: I asked my wife, Bubelah, to write a guest post on any topic she wanted. She chose to write about winter holiday traditions from her childhood, so a little bit of background is in order. She was born and raised in Tashkent in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic of the former Soviet Union. Until the Soviet Union dissolved (when she was 13) she lived in a Soviet Republic as a third generation Russian immigrant. In Russian (and for the most part Soviet) tradition, New Year’s Eve is far more significant than Christmas or Hanukah or any other winter celebration. New Year’s Eve is a huge family celebration and in some senses is hard for Westerners to understand – for Americans, imagine the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one day. It is extremely significant! So here is her take on the holiday!

soviet era new year postcard

My husband Steve asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I decided to write about winter holidays and traditions, the way it was done in my family. I am not going to write about how to save on holiday gift purchases. This topic has been covered more than enough. And it’s not about how to make money either. It’s about holiday joy and the traditions that are part of a happy and balanced life.

The holidays are approaching and for everybody it means different things. Now that we have our own little family I am constantly thinking of what traditions to incorporate into our holiday celebration. For Steve and his family, Christmas is a big holiday but not from a religious point. For me and my family the New Year celebration is a big deal. This is my favorite holiday of all.

When I was growing up we had almost the same routine every year – not that it was intentionally established, it just happened like that. My parents would buy a big fir tree that we, the children, got to decorate. Nothing sets the mood like the smell of a fresh tree. My mother would buy oranges and tangerines for a big treat because they were hard to get in winter.

I do not remember that we ever worried about buying or making presents for the New Year. We just never did it in my family, although my parents would always bring home small cute packages of treats for me and my sister. My parents’ employer provided them with presents for their children for a small nominal fee, and in that little cute bag we would find edible treats like holiday cookies, chocolate candies and such. We used to put them under the tree and eat our treats slowly..well, it least it was the idea. It never worked with me, but my sister had good discipline.

In America, children go to a big mall to see Santa Claus and they stand in a long line and wait for their turn to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want. We, however, didn’t have malls. We had community clubs or theaters where you could go for free or for a nominal fee to see Father Frost (Ded Moroz) and his granddaughter Snegurochka. There was always a small performance and children gathered in a big circle around the Tree singing and dancing. This is what our parents arranged for us to do every December leading up to the New Year.

The New Year’s Eve feast was a big production. We would cook enough food to last us probably up to two weeks after the holiday. The idea was that your New Year’s table should be full and abundant to invite an abundant year into your lives. Special dishes were thoughtfully prepared with advanced planning involved, dishes that we wouldn’t have normally have eaten during the year. After all, the New Year’s Celebration was not some ordinary holiday.

New Year’s Eve was always considered a family celebration. That is why we spent it home or in going back and forth between our house and my grandmother’s, who lived next door. Sometimes if it snowed, we’d go out with sleighs and play in the snow. There would be a lot of neighbors outside doing the same thing. It would make our New Year’s celebration extra special.

Our big table that we set out on December 31 would not been folded for at least a week because the celebrations kept going on. There was always somebody who dropped by to wish us Happy New Year, be it a neighbor, family or friends. Of course we would invite them to the table to eat and drink champagne to toast the New Year, and that is what I liked about it the most, even after so much preparation leading up to the big culmination – there was no sudden stop to it.

This is what makes me sad about Christmas in America. It always feels that come December 26th, everything suddenly drops. All the anticipation and planning for the holiday for a whole month abruptly ends and you start seeing “SALE” signs everywhere.

Well, this is how my holiday celebration used to be, and this is how we are still doing it in America. I am thinking of making my own family holiday traditions. I do associate winter holidays with cold weather and snow. I cannot possibly go to the Caribbean to celebrate the New Year. It’s just something I grew up with.

Happy New Year to All. May the Year of 2008 bring you much Love, Health and Great Returns on your Investments!