Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celebrating the new year in Almaty Part 1: Ded Moroz and Snegurochka

To the best of my knowledge, Christmas is not a holiday in Kazakhstan.  While there may be some families that celebrate something on December 25th, the big holiday here is the new year.  In celebrating the new year, many familiar symbols arise.  One example is the tradition of gift giving at the new year by Ded Moroz (father frost) and his grand daughter Snegurochka.  As you can see from the picture at the top of this post, they fly in a troika (a sleigh pulled by three horses) and you can see a yolka in the back.  Families and schools will sometimes hire a company to provide a Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.  Snegurochka will lead a good time with games and dancing which eventually culminates in the arrival of Ded Moroz and the dissemination of gifts (purchased by the family, of course).  I have to say that, from what I've seen, this culture has the party-games thing down.  Everyone (from toddlers to grown-ups) participates and everyone has a good time.

Another similarity is the Yolka - a fir tree decorated to celebrate the new year which strongly resembles our Christmas Tree:  "In Russia they only started decorating fir trees in 1700. Back then it symbolized New Year, not Christmas. Czar Peter the Great imported the tradition of from Europe and also moved New Year celebrations from September 1 to January 1.  Meaning that in 1700 we Russians celebrated New Year twice and both times with fir trees!" click here for more about this tradition.

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