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  • Writer's pictureOlga Jarrell

Ёлка. Новогодняя или рождественская? Christmas or New Year Tree?

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

Unlike Americans who think of a decorated holiday tree as a Christmas tree (рожде́ственская ёлка), Russians always call it a New Year tree (нового́дняя ёлка). The tradition of putting up and decorating a spruce tree was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great in the 18th century, and the trees were decorated for Christmas at that time. Later, after the October Revolution in 1917, as a result of the anti-religious campaign, Christmas celebrations were banned, and Christmas trees were replaced with secular New Year trees. This is how рожде́ственская ёлка became нового́дняя ёлка. Since then, traditionally, all Russians have decorated a spruce tree for New Year’s Day, but not for Christmas.

Фотография @Бибичков Михаил

Ёлочные украшения или ёлочные игрушки

In many Russian homes, a tree is usually decorated during the first two weeks of December or even later, and it stays up to January 14th, which is known as Old New Year in Russia. Russians traditionally put a red five-point star (звезда́) on top of the tree (angel ornaments were not “popular” in Soviet Russia, and never made in any ornament factory). Some common tree ornaments (ёлочные украше́ния or ёлочные игру́шки (toys!) include:


шарыарики) = ball ornaments гирлянды = garlands мишура = tinsels бусы = necklace-like ornaments сосульки = icicles шишки = pine cones


Nowadays, holiday decorations in Russia are pretty much the same as anywhere, but it is still foreign to Russians to have wreaths, poinsettia flowers, candy canes, red bows, or Christmas stockings among New Year or Christmas decorations in their homes.


Ёлка в ГУМе

A giant 11-meter fir tree was installed and decorated in GUM, Russia’s most famous department store, which is located on Red Square in Moscow. The tree is decorated in a style popular in the Soviet Union in the 1960s: with candy, mandarins, holiday ball ornaments, retro postcards and holiday lights.


A traditional holiday fair is held at the base of the tree, where various seasonal presents, handmade Christmas ornaments, old postcards, and other retro Christmas decorations are for sale.


Огромная одиннадцатиметровая ель была установлена