Ёлка. Новогодняя или рождественская?| Christmas or New Year tree?

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 antireligious 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 украше́ния или ёлочные игру́шки


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!) included:


шары́ (ша́рики) = ball ornaments

гирля́нды = garlands

мишура́ = tinsels

бу́сы = necklace-like ornaments

сосу́льки = icicles

ши́шки = pine cones

 Фотография ©Бибичков Михаил

 Фотография ©Бибичков Михаил

 Фотография ©Бибичков Михаил

Фотография ©Бибичков Михаил


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.

Фотография ©Бибичков Михаил

 Фотография ©Бибичков Михаил


Огромная одиннадцатиметровая ель была установлена и украшена в ГУМе, самом известном универмаге России, который расположен на Красной площади в Москве. Ёлка украшена в популярном в шестидесятые годы стиле,: конфетами, мандаринами, шарами, ретро-открытками и праздничными огнями.


У подножья ёлки разместилась традиционная новогодняя ярмарка, где продаются различные подарки, рождественские украшения ручной работы, старые открытки и другие праздничные украшения в стиле ретро.


If you want to say a few sentences about decorating a tree, here is a little useful vocabulary:

  • украша́ть / укра́сить ёлку (чем?) = to decorate a Christmas tree (with)

  • наряжа́ть / наряди́ть ёлку = to decorate a Christmas tree (to attire)

  • ста́вить / поста́вить ёлку = to put up a tree

  • Ёлка укра́шена (чем?) = The tree is decorated with (what?)

  • В ГУМе укра́сили ёлку в сти́ле ре́тро. = In GUM they decorated the tree in retro style.

  • Чем укра́шена ёлка? = What is the tree decorated with?

  • Конфе́тами, шара́ми, ста́рыми откры́тками, огня́ми, мандари́нами, ёлочными игру́шками и други́ми украше́ниями в сти́ле ре́тро.= With candy, ball ornaments, old postcards, lights, mandarins, Christmas ornaments, and other decorations in retro style.

  • ёлочные украше́ния /ёлочные игру́шки = Christmas decorations / ornaments

  • шары́ (ша́рики) = ball ornaments

  • гирля́нды = garlands

  • мишура́ = tinsels

  • бу́сы = necklace like ornaments

  • сосу́льки = icicles

  • ши́шки = pine cones


У вас есть ёлка до́ма?

Вы её уже́ укра́сили?

Вы обы́чно всегда́ ста́вите ёлку на Рождество?

Вы лю́бите украша́ть ёлку?

Каки́е украше́ния у вас на ёлке?

У вас есть ста́рые ёлочные украше́ния?


Ёлка и хорово́д


'Novogodnyaya yolka' is not just a tree; it’s also the name of a New Year’s party for children, organized by all the schools, youth clubs, day care centers, and companies for their employees’ children. The celebration usually consists of an interactive performance, contests, gifts and a traditional dance called khorovod (хорово́д). In ‘khorovod’ everybody holds hands and moves around the tree in a circle. It is always accompanied by singing popular Russian New Year songs. In the Soviet times it was common (and still is) for kids to wear carnival costumes at New Year parties. Almost like what Americans wear on Halloween, but excluding evil spirits and dead creatures.


Evolution of the New Year tree


In Soviet times when religion was frowned on by the Communist authorities, Russians called Christmas trees 'New Year's trees'. This graphic shows the evolution of this ever-green symbol, decorations and toys across time and different countries.

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