We’ve been trying to go to Russian for New Year for a while. Both times, though, we just missed it because of visa complications. This time we got there in the beginning of January and everything was still decorated and fun. New Years is the main Russian holiday, akin to a secular version of Christmas in the US. Christmas is called Pождество and is celebrated on January 6th. It’s not a very widely celebrated holiday; it’s only religious. My family doesn’t celebrate it, but those who do have a meal with their family and go to church, I’ve been told. On New Years, Дед Мороз (Santa) comes and brings presents to children. There are Christmas trees and lots of tinsel. The best thing about New Year, though, is the winter festival. It is awesome.
Russian seasons last for three months each, and end on the last day of the month. So winter ends on the last day of February. Maslenitsa (Мaсленица) is the holiday that celebrates the last day of winter, which you can assume is a big deal that far north. In class they had a little celebration that was completely unexpected. I don’t think that any of us knew that it was a holiday or that a celebration was coming, because after one class the teachers were all excited-looking and telling us that we were going to do something, but we didn’t understand enough to know what was coming. They brought us all in the other classroom that we used and had a a table set up and some students from the foreign language department who had put together the celebration. They showed us a short cartoon about Maslenitsa (this one, actually: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTlwV2Yj1RI) and a slide show. You know that movie The Wicker Man? The whole burning a straw guy and, oops, a person is inside? Yea, that is a Maslenitsa festival. We ate some Russian pancakes, which are really thin like crepes and are made with sour milk so that they have a very specific taste. You dip them in jelly or sour cream (my favorite) or, there was also some other kind of savory thing that was there to put on them and it was icky. I forgot what it was. After we ate the pancakes we played some games and danced a line dance. It was pretty fun overall, though really unexpected.
My birthday came in April and my mother in law bought me some flowers and my father in law bought a cake. I’ve made lots of Russian cakes in my day, for my husband’s sweet tooth and his birthdays. The cake his father bought me was this cheesecake-y bottom layer and a cherry-jelly-ish top layer, like the stuff you put in Cherry pie. In the cherry layer there were pie type cherries too. Not a big cherry person myself, I didn’t eat them, but the cake was yummy and I ate that. It was in the shape of a heart and another had been in the fridge for valentines day and then appeared again when it was Women’s Day on March 8th. Women’s Day is a big one in Europe and we had the day off school and everything.
Easter came on April 20th, and it was pretty cool because my mother in law colored some tiny quail eggs and they were adorable. Apparently, eating quail eggs is a thing in Russia, totally normal. My daughter like them and ate them.
Those things behind the plate in the last pic are loaves of Easter bread. It’s kind of like a cinnamon raisin bread that has icing on top. It was store bought and was kind of dry for my taste. I bet homemade is much better.
The next big holiday was День Победы, which is Victory Day, a celebration about the end of WWII. Day off for that one too. There were a lot of minor holidays that had days off school and work and things. День Победы had a parade and fireworks and it was a pretty big deal. They had some kind of celebration in the town center, and some kind of concert.
I don’t think you understand how cool that setup is. The building is huge. I didn’t take the kids to the parade and stuff, unfortunately, because I kept on getting emails about not going to public gatherings just in case. The stuff in Ukraine didn’t seem to be much of a problem–literally no one mentioned it at all. The only thing I ever heard of it was some mention of it on the radio in the car with my father in law. I didn’t fully understand everything they were talking about but there was mention of Obama. I had watched some videos of this girl from Nizhny Novogorod who had been an exchange student in Ohio and was talking about Ukraine, saying it was a very good thing they were over there and stuff. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t know much about this stuff, but from conversations with my husband about my father in law’s opinion and listening to my teachers, it seems as if the opinion there is overly positive about the situation in Ukraine. The emails I kept getting were about Americans going to large gatherings just in case there might be bad feelings towards us. I’m not sure how well founded that opinion was, but even so I wasn’t about to go with my kids. If I had been by myself, I would have done more stuff like that because I could go out in public without talking so no one would even know Ii was a foreigner. But going with the kids, it wasn’t possible to go places without speaking English with them. Or, if I would have tried to speak Russian it would have been obvious that I wasn’t a native.