When I was a kid we didn’t have Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa (the latter is due to the lack of African-Ukrainians). We had New Year, with Ded Moroz and Snegurochka, “New Year’s” Tree, presents, and obligatory toast at midnight. New Year was the only Soviet holiday that wasn’t associated with any communist or revolution bullshit.
People dressed up, even at home, the table was covered with hard-to-find delicacies and drinks. Then my Mom made me take out the trash one last time, which involved going 3 floors (81 steps) down to the cold and dark yard. Then everyone waited.
Few minutes before midnight the General Secretary of the Communist Part of the USSR would congratulate the Soviet People with another giant leap toward communism made in a previous year and wish them to make even more giant step next year.This is what it looked like in 1971. I only expect a few readers to recognize who this is, Leonid Illyich Brezhnev died before some of you were born. I know it’s in Russian but I am sure you’ll recognize every other word being “socialism” or “communism”. Brezhnev loved himself a long speech. He could go on for hours but he knew that vodka and champagne are getting warm and people restless. But there was no escape: all three channels had the speech on. Soviet people had to be congratulated whether the wanted it or not.
When the General Secretary finally shut up, the Kremlin Kuranty rung midnight, the universal signal to start the festivities. That’s when we toasted New Year, my Dad would go outside and leave a bag of presents right behind the door, I don’t think we even wrapped them. We usually didn’t stay up for too long. I am still not a night person. I still like New Year better than all the other holidays combined. Nobody is born, no miracles of burning oil, just a clock of life ticking along, all the bad things are behind you and a brand new, bright and shiny year is ahead.
This year I will be celebrating in St.Louis with a bunch of other Russians, old style. Even three months of Christmas music every year can’t make us forget who we are.
I wish you all a Happy New Year, I hope that you will prosper, win a lottery, don’t get sick and have fun.
P.S. To all the beautiful women who want to date me next year: I will be appearing here starting January 2 so you know where to find me.