Russian Christmas tree traditions
Christmas tree appeared in Russia in the times of Peter the Great, but not immediately entered the life of the Russian people. It didn’t become an integral part of the Christmas and New Year celebrations for a long time, taking root slowly and very painfully in our country. Christmas tree in Russia had to go through moments of delight and moments of hate, years of neglect, and periods of complete indifference.
December 20, 1699 on his return from abroad, Peter the Great issued a decree in which he prescribed to lead chronology from the Nativity of Christ, and not from the creation of the world, and the first day of the new year is the 1st of January, and not on 1 September. The same decree introduced into use custom to celebrate the holiday with fireworks, fires, masquerades on New Year’s Day, as well as “home decorating of the tree and the branches of pine, spruce and juniper.”
After the death of Peter the Christmas tree had been completely forgotten, and it was brought back “to life” only at the beginning of the XIX century by the Germans who settled in St. Petersburg and continued the customs of their native Germany in the distant snowy Russia.
Germany is considered to be the first country where the Christmas tree was introduced – specially for children. It seems that the fashion for “German innovations”, was quickly spread by St. Petersburg nobility, reinforced by the fashion for German literature, and above all – Hoffmann, whose “Christmas tree” texts were very popular. “The Nutcracker” and “Lord of the Fleas” published in separate editions, introduced children to a special holiday reading, simultaneously contributing to the spread in the Russian houses the custom of Christmas tree and illustrations contributed to its visual image.
The first “public” Christmas tree was set up in St. Petersburg at 1852 Ekateringof station. Gradually the tree completely conquered Russia, having become an indispensable attribute of Christmas at the end of the 19th century.
Nobody knows for sure where and how appeared a custom of Christmas tree. Nevertheless, for certain it came from the ancient times and is associated with pagan beliefs in the fact that every object – including the trees have a soul. Traces of the veneration of trees found in ancient religions, the British, Scandinavians, Italians, French, Czechs, in the Caucasus, in Arabia, Mongolia and other places. Often trees were sacrificed, decorated, especially with the lighted candles.
Christmas tree – the symbol of paradise tree, the tree of life, which people “once lost, but which returns us to the Savior, an invisible sun of righteousness (Christmas), that give life to all, through the annual birth of the sun and the action of the visible (New Year).”
The top of the Christmas tree is decorated with a star – in memory of the star of Bethlehem, the Magi to specify the path to the cave where Jesus was born. Among the green paws crouched figures of singing angels, praising God, and shepherds with sheep, who had come to worship the baby. The same joyous event remind chiming bells of silver and gold, similar to those worn by the flocks of Palestinian shepherds. Christmas tree candles and lanterns were the prototypes of bonfires and bright stars of light for the shepherds of Bethlehem in the Holy Night.
Since the 1850s in Europe and in Russia came into fashion glass ornaments. Since the second half of the XIX century, Germany has become a major producer and exporter of Christmas tree decorations of different materials. Russian traders once a year certainly went to Germany and bought toys for sale. In Russia, too, began to open handicraft workshops for the production of toys, and in the 19 century in the cities of Klin and St. Petersburg, opened the first “Christmas” factory.
Gradually, in Russian families began to take root the tradition of making Christmas toys with their own hands – cardboard animals, angels and snowflakes. It was believed that the process keeps the educational sense. This custom first appeared in the noble families, then moved to the middle class.
In the USSR Christmas tree turned into New Year’s tree. Naive and mysterious, funny and fun, the USSR New Year’s decorations included ideology and politics: the innocent balls side by side with astronauts, characters from fairy tales and even portraits of leaders! Christmas decorations of the USSR and famous Christmas toys on clothespins and glass garland and even an old cardboard pressed Christmas Toys.
It is no secret that about the history of the country can tell not only chronicles or historical monuments, but also some little things of everyday life. Just look at the old Christmas decorations. That red star and ball with a hammer and sickle – the birth and formation of the young state of workers and peasants.
The glory of the winners in the great war, the rocket and astronaut on clothespin – in honor of space explorers and fur-tree toy – unforgettable corn – a tribute to the memory of the virgin land development. Peace and slightly deflating the years of stagnation – and that’s the same rabbits, hedgehogs and cockerels. And even Santa Claus! Not Santa in a red coat, but our native Grandfather in the blue coat and his staff! All these old collectible Christmas toys of the Soviet times were made of glass, hand-painted and therefore almost alive with eyes and smiles, in anticipation of a fairy tale of the new year.
Russian Christmas tree traditions