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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Russia Series at RussianPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Russian holidays and observances. I’m Jenny, and you're listening to Season 1 Lesson 13 - Old New Year.
In this lesson, we will discuss how New Year’s Eve is celebrated in Russia. However, this isn’t going to be about the conventional New Year’s Eve you may be thinking of. Russian Old New Year’s Eve, referred to in Russian as Старый Новый год (Staryy Novyy god), is observed on the eve of January 14. Even though this holiday is not officially recognized, many Russian people return to the festive New Year atmosphere and gather together around the festive table once again.
But, before we go into more detail, we’ve got a question for you- how many months did the shortest year in Russia’s history have?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
In ancient times, the public conception of the beginning of the New Year fell on different months. At first, the New Year was considered to start on March 1, but later this was moved to September 1. Eventually, the Emperor Peter I, in Russian император Пётр 1 (imperator Pyotr 1), delivered an edict stating that the New Year’s beginning should be calculated from January 1. However, at this time Russia was using the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian one that is used today. After the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1918, the old Russian concept of when January 1 is, was suddenly shifted to January 14, due to the chronological difference between the two calendars.
For Orthodox Christians, the Old New Year has a special significance. Since the Russian Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar, the usual New Year, called Новый год (Novyy god), coincides with the extremely strict Nativity Fast, which requires that believers only enjoy a lavish festive meal after Christmas. The Old New Year holiday also gives them the opportunity to have a hearty celebration to kick off the New Year.
Nowadays, Russian people have a variety of ways of observing the Old New Year, but typically it's done among family or with lively company. Festive concerts and old Soviet movies are shown on TV, and Christmas trees, or Новогодние ёлки (Novagodniye yolki) in Russian, are left up in almost all homes to keep the festive holiday spirit alive.
Incidentally, January 1 under the Julian calendar used to be called “St. Basil’s Day,” or in Russian (День Святого Василия, Den' Svyatova Vasiliya) and the Old New Year’s Eve was called “St. Basil’s Eve.” St. Basil is considered to be the patron saint of farmers, which is why the New Year’s meal is supposed to always include different pork dishes.
So, returning to our quiz, how many months did the shortest year in Russia’s history have?
Prior to the edict issued by Peter I, the New Year in Russia began on September 1. As the edict required that the New Year start on January 1, the year 1699 in the Russian state had only 4 months – from September to December.
So listeners, how did you like this lesson? Did you learn something new?
Is there a holiday similar to the Old New Year in your country?
Leave a comment at RussianPod101.com, and I’ll see you in the next lesson!