New Year: a holiday from two great rulers of the Russian land

Typical soviet christmas toy. A photo:

Perhaps, our most favorite holiday is the New Year, we, the people of current generations, are accustomed to consider something not just familiar, but eternal and unshakable. Regarding this date, fortunately, there are no disagreements and frictions with political or any other subtext, the magic night with the sound of chimes, splashes of champagne, the aroma of a Christmas tree and tangerine unites us all, regardless of gender, age, national or religious affiliation . It would seem that it has always been so ... However, this is a deeply erroneous opinion. We owe our present joy to two truly great rulers, separated by several centuries.

The New Year, as a secular and popular holiday, was presented to our ancestors in 1700 by the Emperor All-Russian Peter I. And Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin almost two and a half centuries later, in 1935, returned it from oblivion, into which this wonderful holiday was almost sank thanks to the victory of the proletarian revolution and some of its excessively zealous adherents. How was it all? Let's remember together.

From Julius Caesar to Peter the Great

Perhaps it is worth starting with the fact that for the first time in the history of mankind, on January 1, the emperor of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar, proclaimed the beginning of the new year. As a matter of fact, he established the first version of the usual reckoning — with 12 months, 365 days, and so on, which subsequently deservedly received the name of the Julian calendar. However, to our ancestors, the intellects of the Roman, very distant from them, as they were then called in our Palestinians, Caesars, were deep in the candlelight. From ancient times in Russia the day was considered the beginning of the new year; according to the current calendar, it falls on March 1. It is understandable - the ancestors lived in harmony with nature and according to its laws. A new life cycle began with the onset of spring, the time of flowering, liberation from the winter cold and the awakening of all life. Poetic, romantic, practical ... This continued until 1492, when under Sovereign Ivan III, the Russian Kingdom passed on to the Julian calendar. The problem was that Orthodox theologians, according to the traditions of Byzantium, counted time not from the Nativity of Christ, but from the creation of the world, the exact date of which was considered 5508 BC. From now on, September 1 will be New Year or New Year’s Day. Well, it’s also quite understandable - the end of the agricultural cycle, preparation for a long winter. Much less romantic, but much more practical. Especially when you consider that on this day all the approximate subjects of the Russian Tsar were instructed not to idlely indulge in fun, but to regularly pay tribute taxes and all sorts of arrears with arrears. All of this, as you know, has never contributed much to special fun.

The solemn event could be considered a solemn prayer service “For the Anniversary” and, accordingly, “On the beginning of a new summer”, usually held on the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin with the personal participation of the reigning monarch, his children and family members, the Patriarch of All Russia, as well as the highest nobility . In a word - the then "beau monde". The common people did not forbid staring at this incredibly magnificent action from a permissible distance, but still it was recommended not to beat the bucks, but diligently scrape through the guts and barns for the full payment of all the required “obligatory payments”. Such was the New Year before the accession of the last tsar (and the first Emperor) on our land, Peter Alekseevich, later titled the Great. As we all know from school, this monarch was eagerly eager for any and all innovations borrowed, as a rule, in the West. It is not surprising that, having run into plenty of Europe, Peter was very impressed with the customs there for the New Year. We must give him his due - Herr Peter loved all kinds of amusements, but on a larger scale, noisier. The grandiose all-Russian booze with firing fireworks and musket fire was for him - that’s it. The autocrat approached the implementation of his own consent with all seriousness: first of all, he ordered that the years be counted not from the creation of the world, but from the Nativity of Christ (as in the “enlightened” countries). And it came in Russia instead of 7208, the year 1700. Prone in life to the personal regulation of everything and everything in the state, the king was not too lazy in the last days of the outgoing 1699 to issue a personal decree for number 1736, which was called: "On the celebration of the New Year."

Here is a small quote from this document:

... As a sign of a good start and a new century, in the reigning city of Moscow, after due thanks to God and prayer song in the church, and to whom it will happen in his house, along large and passing noble streets, noble people, and near deliberate houses and a worldly order, before the collars it is possible to fix some ornaments from trees and branches of pine, spruce and juniper - against the samples that are made in the Gostiny Dvor and at the lower pharmacy, or to whom it is more convenient and decent, depending on the place and gate. And it’s not enough for the meager people to put the gates or branches on their gates, or over their own huts, so that the future Genvar would be ripe by the 1st of this year, and that adornment of the General should stand on the 7th day of that same 1700 ...

So much for our modern tradition of the New Year tree - it is from this decree that it originates. Incidentally, it should be noted that this innovation (as, incidentally, many others introduced by Peter), in the "broad masses of the people" initially did not find understanding or enthusiasm. The fact is that our ancestors had conifers, unlike the Europeans, who considered them a “symbol of eternal life”, associations were called exclusively with funeral ceremonies. Well, it’s okay, we’ve got used to it ... So much so that now the New Year without a Christmas tree or a pine in our house is inconceivable. In addition to the “Christmas-tree decorations” mentioned above, another new-year-old custom, familiar to us, originates from Peter. Namely - "fiery fun." The sovereign ordered "to launch rockets" and "to shoot from the muskets" on Red Square, and not only on New Year's Eve, but from January 1 to 7. Inhabitants of the city “as a sign of fun” should “light fires from firewood and straw”, as well as from “barrels filled with tar”. One can only imagine how “happy” this tsar’s command was those who were responsible for fire safety in the same Moscow ...

From Sovereigns to Bolsheviks

It so happened that since that time almost all New Year’s customs were introduced on our land, so to speak, “from above”. The first festive masquerade balls, as you know, were not held in peasant huts, but in the Winter Palace under Empress Elizabeth. The tradition of giving gifts, arranging a New Year's table, "breaking" from all kinds of eating, originates, again, from the brilliant courtyard of Catherine II ... Since then, champagne has become a specifically "New Year's" drink. Generally speaking, for most of the history of the Russian Empire, the New Year was an elitist holiday, celebrated with the "cream of society", nobles and other privileged classes, rather than popular. And the Orthodox Church, to put it mildly, did not particularly welcome him. Perhaps the dislike of her hierarchs to the personality of Peter I and his legacy affected, but first of all, the problem was that the festive night with its revelry and hospitality did not fit into the framework of the Christmas fast, which is obligatory for all truly believing people. Due to the fact that the bulk of the population of the Russian Empire was nevertheless Orthodox people (at least officially), truly Christmas was the truly popular holiday - with Christmas trees, a festive table and subsequent Christmas time. That is why after the October Revolution of 1917, the winter holidays fell "completely under repression". New Year - as "noble fun." Well, Christmas - as a manifestation of the “priestly obscurantism”, from which the fellow revolutionaries erected by them a “wonderful new world” intended to “cleanse” completely and completely ...

Holiday at the Metropol. Artist: Sergey Vinogradov, 1907. Photo: Wikimedia

From the moment of the revolution, in fact, it started. Nothing, however, is new: the very ideological forerunners of our "subversive fundamentals" - the figures of the Great French Revolution very quickly even began to redraw the calendar as well. Well, ours, thank God, had the mind not to introduce all sorts of "fruktidory" and "vandemeier", although some ideas like that existed. The French “Nivoz” would have sounded particularly good under the canopy of their native aspens - by the way, it’s precisely the New Year period that they “baptized” from December 21 to January 19 ... However, besides the decisive breakdown of the "old world" on our land, revolutionaries made attempts to introduce, instead of centuries of established and familiar traditions, something of their own, which they believed was more in line with the tastes and aspirations of the “working people”. Not having time to take power in October 1917, the Bolsheviks and their associates (in the person of the Socialist Revolutionaries, anarchists and others) erupted in the following appeal: “To the citizens of Russia! Relying on the will of the vast majority of workers, soldiers and peasants, the Council of People's Commissars decides to abolish the celebration of the New Year as counter-revolutionary, imbued with the idea of ​​bourgeois decadence and priestly obscurantism. Instead of it, the “Red Blizzard” holiday is introduced, symbolizing the beginning of the world revolution! ” Well it was necessary to come up with a name! Stephen King and other luminaries of the horror genre nervously smoke aside ... No "blizzard" among the people, of course, did not take root. Yes, and it wasn’t especially for people before the holidays in those terrible years of the Great Troubles - war, famine, typhoid epidemics, rampant banditry ... It would be here to survive, and not to dance around the Christmas tree! However, the end of the Civil War did not fix the matter.

The New Year was actually banned as a “bourgeois” custom with a “priestly subtext”. This is despite the fact that grandfather Lenin allowed himself such "heretical tricks" as the installation of a Christmas tree in Gorki for the local children. And not even for the New Year, but scary to say - for Christmas! But then his "faithful followers" took up the matter, striving to break their foreheads in their revolutionary and anti-religious zeal - and away we go.

Religiosity of the guys begins with the Christmas tree. The ruling exploiting classes use the “cute” Christmas tree also to make obedient and patient servants of capital out of the working people!

- This is from the brochure “Materials for anti-religious propaganda in the Christmas days”, published in 1927.

We won’t let us chop a young tree,
We will not let the forests destroy, cut down to no avail.
Only he who is a friend of the priests is ready to celebrate the Christmas tree.
You and I are enemies of the priests. Christmas is not necessary for us

- This is from a children's magazine of the same years.

Greta Tunberg would surely be delighted ...

Parents, do not confuse us! Do not throw Christmas and Christmas tree!

- quote from the same source.

A call familiar to all of us from childhood: “Fir-tree, burn!” at that time had a very ominous meaning. On the eve of Christmas, the “young atheists” did not light candles on festively decorated Christmas trees, but the unfortunate trees themselves. What a horror ...

From comrade Stalin to our happy childhood

The end of this foolishness came in 1935, when on the New Year's Eve a letter appeared in the newspaper Pravda, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, Pavel Postyshev. It had this content: “In pre-revolutionary times, the bourgeoisie and bourgeois officials always arranged a New Year tree for their children. The workers' children looked enviously through the window at the Christmas tree sparkling with colorful lights and the rich children having fun around it. Why do we have schools, orphanages, nurseries, children's clubs, pioneer palaces depriving this wonderful pleasure of the children of the working people of the Soviet country? Some, other than the "left" bendists, glorified this children's entertainment as a bourgeois venture. It follows this wrong condemnation of the Christmas tree, which is a wonderful entertainment for children, to put an end to. Komsomol members, pioneer workers should arrange collective Christmas trees for children on New Year's Eve. In schools, orphanages, in the palaces of pioneers, in children's clubs, in children's films and theaters - everywhere there should be a Christmas tree! There should not be a single collective farm where the board, together with the Komsomol members, would not arrange a Christmas tree for their children on the eve of the New Year. City councils, chairmen of district executive committees, village councils, and public education bodies should help set up a Soviet Christmas tree for the children of our great socialist homeland. Organization of a children's Christmas tree, our children will only be grateful. I am sure that Komsomol members will take an active part in this matter and eradicate the ridiculous opinion that the Christmas tree is a bourgeois prejudice. So, let's organize a happy New Year's Eve for children, arrange a good Soviet Christmas tree in all cities and collective farms! ”

Children's New Year's round dance with Grandpa Lenin. Postcard 1950s. Photo: Wikiimage

The initiative was not only approved - it was instantly picked up and developed to the limit. Literally on the same day, the Decree of the Central Committee of the Komsomol of the USSR “On holding evenings of students dedicated to the meeting of the new 1936” was adopted. Oh, thirty-sixth, thirty-sixth ... Stalin's "thaw." “Life has become better, life has become more fun” ... It is clear that the merit of attributing the revival of the Christmas tree, even if not Christmas, but to the New Year, would be completely wrong for Postyshev. In no case could ideological decisions of such a level pass by the Leader. As well as the publication in Pravda, the country's main newspaper. And the instant reaction of the Central Committee of the Komsomol indicates that the corresponding decree has already been prepared and lay on the leadership table, only awaiting signature. Comrade Stalin gave the "go-ahead" - and let's go celebrate! In 1937, with the filing of the People's Commissariat of Education and the Committee on Toys (yes, yes - it was like that!) A new training manual was born, dedicated not to anti-religious bullshit, but to the proper organization of the meeting of the Soviet new year. Here are the lines from there:

The top of the spruce should be decorated with a five-pointed red or silver shiny star. On medium branches it is necessary to hang toys that do not require detailed examination: bonbonnieres, crackers, painted cones, fake vegetables and fruits, and at the edges of branches - airplanes, parachutes, the Karatsupu border guard with the dog Ingus, steam locomotives and armored cars. The Christmas tree should be a holiday of a happy childhood, created in our country by the enormous cares of the party, the government, and personally Comrade Stalin about children ...

Legendary Soviet champagne. A photo:

By the way, even here there were half-fools who crossed all reasonable boundaries in their zeal. Someone thought of stamping Christmas balls with portraits of Lenin, Stalin and Marx with Engels (why not have these!) To give the holiday tree a very communist look. Well, they gave me a hat, of course, and they strictly forbade doing this from now on. Glass balls are not granite steles or marble slabs, so that the leaders of the Land of Soviets quite often didn’t get canonical faces on them, but forgive, my God, some terrible faces. The bearded authors of the immortal “Capital” did look like wild parodies of Santa Claus, who had pretty much typed up somewhere before the start of the holiday ... Anyway, the images of those whom the USSR used to mention with befitting sacred awe and reverence, dangling among the needles in the company of bunny-squirrels-bears and snowflakes with cones, they looked pretty wild. The "innovators" who were not aware of the measures were strictly put in sight and ordered not to pamper with the "saint". Limit yourself to a well-deserved border guard with his no less well-deserved dog and Papanin heroes. The New Year finally became a national holiday in 1948, when January 1 was declared a day off at the state level. There is no doubt that such a decision would have been made much earlier - but the damned war has prevented. However, this holiday was celebrated in the trenches and dugouts of the Great Patriotic War. In any case, I keep the New Year cards sent to my wife from the front by my grandfather as a relic to this day ... One way or another, but the appearance in the Soviet Union of our beloved, the most massive, kind and beloved holiday, is clearly the merit of Joseph Vissarionovich. So - “Thanks to Comrade Stalin for the Christmas tree and Santa Claus!”

In a word, raising full glasses on New Year's Eve, we all should remember with kind words two outstanding historical figures, thanks to whom in our life there is this magical, wonderful, truly unique holiday.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas to all!
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.
I have an account? Sign in
  1. steelmaker Offline steelmaker
    steelmaker 28 December 2019 16: 35
    And I join: happiness, health and well-being in the new 2020 !!!

    Happiness is different, like people, happiness is the world around,
    this is a moment of a short flash, this is a friend next.
    We don’t understand happiness, while we are slurping a spoon with cabbage soup,
    while there is something to dream about.
    Happiness is work for life, happiness is helping people.
    This is air, this is light, this is laughter, this is a soft toy,
    it's a soft pillow ....
    Happiness is a sensation, it is an eternal movement,
    happiness is a new century, in general it is a Man.
    Happy is he who can wait, happiness has many faces,
    shape, sculpt and sing without whipping and screaming.
  2. xilia72 Offline xilia72
    xilia72 (xantos) 29 December 2019 01: 40
    Only a small clarification, under Peter 1, the new year followed Christmas, because only under the Bolsheviks the Julian calendar was changed.
  3. Rinat Offline Rinat
    Rinat (Rinat) 17 January 2020 15: 20
    It is doubtful that Julian introduced the celebration of the so-called New Year on January 1st. January is the 11th month in Roman numerals, and February, respectively, is the last 12th month of the year. Ask why this "nonsense"? I explain: December is a derivative form of the numeral word corresponding to 10. November is a derivative of 9, October is a derivative of 8, September of 7. The names of the remaining months correspond to the names of different rulers of Rome. For example, July is named after Julius, not the one in question. Who is in the subject, share information.