Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

Last weekend, a festive craze swept Irkutsk into a mid-winter’s frenzy that would have been hard to produce any other way. Skies beautiful and clear, the winds calm, and the temperatures nothing too extraordinary at this point, there was plenty to be happy about, the first of which might very well have been the fact that winter, slowly, is leaving.

February 8-14 was the last week before the Great Fast (or “Velikii post”), which, in a religious sense, is the equivalent of Carnival or the New Orleans version of Mardi Gras. The weeklong festival is called Maslenitsa, with the root of “maslo” (butter), which is consumed in quantities of “mountains,” as the holiday rhymes go, in order to prepare for the forty-day abstinence from meat, milk and butter, and honey leading up to Easter.

Ryan, Romany, Romany’s ski friend Zhakko, and I decided to go to the cultural center/open-air ethnographic architecture museum, Tal’tsy, outside the city on the way to Listviyanka. (more…)

Jan 5. State power day. Woo! Filled with a late breakfast (usually the broiled potatoes Ryan had made, long-overdue Honey Nut Cheerios with milk and OJ–simple delights I hadn’t had in months), I arrived at Kremlin walls just after 12 noon, where the line to see Lenin’s Mausoleum (free) was being told that they probably wouldn’t make it that day (the attraction closing at 1 p.m.). Since no one else seemed to believe the police officers saying so, I stayed in line and did make it within the last 20 minutes.

After the baggage check (40 rub.) and metal detectors, you walk along a bush- and grave-lined walkway along the Kremlin wall next to Red Square, occasionally seeing a name that pops out: Khruschev (USSR premier), Gagarin (first man in space), Stalin (had about 30% of the country killed). The path leads around the front of the monument, where you walk into the mostly dark, black granite structure labeled “LENIN.” The guard shushes anyone talking and with an aggressive flare of the eye, tells you to get your hands out of your pockets and to take off your hat. You walk down the stares, passing more guards saying “SHH!” with their fingers in front of their lips

And then boom. There he is. (more…)

Wrapping up the end of a semester, year, and decade in Russia came with a few idiosyncrasies, challenges, and definite high points. Hardest of all was being away from family and friends in the comfort of my grandparents’ living rooms, wishing that my Christmas and New Year’s could be white. But, the trade-off turned out to be pretty darn good, too.

The night(s) before Christmas. I spent the few totally obligation-free days before Christmas doing some final shopping for the host family (travel picture book and a bottle of wine for the ladies, and a book of mostly politically incorrect Russian jokes for Yevgenii), wrapping them, and adding some final decorations to my room.

I had bought a package of festive napkins that I ended up using for wrapping paper for said presents and the ones I’d bought for Ryan earlier, adding (baller) hand-made ribbons out of newspaper or brown packing paper. The modest pile of presents (with the ones sent from home) on the window-sill, along with the stockings and snow-flake cut outs (I know, I’m a kindergardener at heart at Christmastime) hung on my shelves made me happy.

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Proletariat of All Countries, Unite!

As we learned on Tuesday, the day before Wed., November 4, the National Day of Agreement? Peace?, no one really knows what the November 4 holiday is for. People just know that it was created since the fall of the USSR to replace the other, communist-celabratory holiday, today, November 7, the Day of the Great October Revolution (the October referring to the old-style calendar, when the Revolution took place in 1917).

And people also know that November 4 is now a day off work/school. Accordingly, a friend from my econ class, Vova, and I celebrated with beer and conversation the eve of our day off school. Three (or more) cheers for Russia and Agreement!

As for today, Romany and I and our friends Nelli and Ira are getting together to watch My Fair Lady in Russian and make American cookies po-russki, which in no way relates to Lenin’s and his cronies’ takeover of St. Petersburg over the course of a few hours in 1917. Although, Romany and I agreed, that they were overall molodtsi (“good fellows”) for as smoothy as they got the job done. . . as much as they kind of messed up the next century of Russian history, demographics, economy. . . everything. . . .

The People and Army United!Regardless, the beautiful thing about Russian, is that you can just say “S prazdnikom” (“Happy holiday”) whenever there’s an official or un-official holiday, and people generally won’t ask you which one you’re referring to. So to you new Russians and USSR sympathizers alike, s prazdnikom!