Old traditions of the New Year

Такими увидел традиционные новогодние адыгские благопожелания художник Абдуллах Берсиров.

Old traditions of the New Year

Author of the text: © Dzhambulat Outlev
Adapted from bivouac.ru

Decorated Christmas tree in red and white colors. Merry Christmas and Happy Ney Year! Credit:telnyawka

It is difficult to imagine that once there was no New Year’s holiday. But, everything has its beginning. The custom of celebrating the New Year appeared about 25 centuries ago in Mesopotamia (Mesopotamia). Here, at the end of the 4th millennium BC, one of the centers of civilization was formed. Here its famous centers arose – Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, famous for their cultural heritage and the greatest inventions of mankind. And it was here, according to scientists, that for the first time (in the third millennium BC) they began to celebrate the New Year. The Jews, who were in Babylonian captivity during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, adopted this holiday from the Babylonians. From the Jews, the tradition passed to the Greeks, and through them, already in antiquity, gradually spread throughout the world. Over time, it changed, overgrown with national traditions.

Moscow / Russian Federation – January 12, 2021. Christmas tree on the Manege Square. Credit:Dmitry Shchukin

The forgotten essence
Initially, among the peoples of Mesopotamia, the celebration of the New Year began with the first new moon after the vernal equinox and symbolized the victory of the light god Marduk over the goddess of destruction, chaos and death Tiamat. The celebration lasted 12 days and was accompanied by processions, masquerades and carnivals. By the way, the word carnival itself , translated from the Akkadian language, which was spoken in Assyria and Babylon, means a ship, a sea, and this is no coincidence, because many rituals of the New Year’s holiday of that time were associated with the imaginary sailing of the god Marduk along the Euphrates River. The celebration was filled with the spirit of unbridled freedom, when the whole habitual way of life was turned upside down and the last slave turned into a master. At this time, it was forbidden to work, judge and punish. One day the mysteries depicted the battle of Marduk with the monster Tiamat (usually appearing in the form of a dragon, snake or lizard). The Jews borrowed this plot and included it in the Bible (you may be interested in the materials Bible: Exodus of the Jews from Egypt ; The author of the Bible is the Egyptian scribe Hor ), as a result of which there appearedthe Christian legend about St. George the Victorious slaying the dragon is a symbol of eternal evil. The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree for the New Year is not as ancient as the holiday itself, it did not appear immediately and has “only” about two thousand years. During the period of paganism, people believed that good spirits lived in the trees, and by hanging treats – gifts on the trees, they tried to appease these spirits. At the same time, evergreen spruce occupied a special place among all trees. She was a sacred center, a “world tree” that personified the endless power of life, overcoming darkness and darkness.

Glowing deer with light decoration with toy on christmas tree background Credit:Mumemories

Why in winter?
Thus, the ancients celebrated in the New Year the victory of the forces of light over the forces of darkness and the beginning of a new cycle of life. It is quite logical that the celebrations took place in the spring, at the time of the awakening of nature from winter sleep and its renewal. Why is the New Year being celebrated in winter in Russia, Europe, the USA and many other countries of the world now? The Roman commander and politician Gaius Julius Caesar is to blame for this. For a long time, the New Year came for the Romans on March 1. However, in 46 BC. Caesar introduced a new, more accurate calendar, which was called the Julian calendar and is still used today. At the same time, the day of the beginning of the New Year has moved to January 1. January is a symbolic month for the beginning of the new year, because its name is associated with the name of the two-faced Roman god Janus. God looks back – at the past year and forward – at the next year. During the period of Kalend – Roman festivals in honor of the New Year, people decorated their houses, gave gifts to each other. The slaves drank with their masters, and for several days the people did whatever they wanted. Later, with the division of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western, the fall of the latter under the blows of the “barbarians” and the formation of European kingdoms on its ruins, the New Year becomes a favorite tradition in Europe, and then, together with European settlers, enters America. But, since the European and American traditions of celebrating the New Year go back to the Roman ones, it is celebrated in these countries in winter. the fall of the latter under the blows of the “barbarians” and the formation of European kingdoms on its ruins, the New Year becomes a favorite tradition in Europe, and then, together with European settlers, finds its way to America. But, since the European and American traditions of celebrating the New Year go back to the Roman ones, it is celebrated in these countries in winter.

christmas decoration (old glass ball ) isolated on the white background Credit:jonnysek

Day of the sun
In turn,Slavs pagan New Year was closely associated with the deity Kolyada and was celebrated on the Day of the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year (December 21 or 22). The main symbol of the holiday was the fire of the bonfire, which embodied the light of the sun, which, after the longest night, was supposed to shine longer and longer. The ritual New Year’s cake – a loaf, also resembled the sun in shape. In ancient times, it was prepared by the Magi, who tried to appease the gods with the help of various rituals so that they would send down a bountiful harvest to people. Cleaning up on the eve of the holiday in their homes, the girls carefully swept out the garbage – because if they came across a grain of grain, it promised marriage in the coming year. Many New Year’s rituals were performed by children who portrayed a young year. They walked around the courtyards and sang the so-called “carols” – magic spells, designed to ensure well-being in homes, for which they generously distributed gifts to children. “Caroling” was often accompanied by “mummies” in the goat, cow and other animals that embodied fertility. Since ancient times in Russia, they believed that the events of New Year’s Eve would be projected into the next 12 months. So it was not recommended, for example, to repay debts – “all year laterpay off ”, do hard and dirty work, otherwise the coming year will pass in hard work without rest. And in order to enjoy new things for the whole next year, on New Year’s Eve they put on everything the most beautiful, new and even tried to change clothes several times. In the 10th century, with the adoption of Orthodoxy, the chronology used by the Byzantines also passed into Ancient Russia. The years in it were counted from the “creation of the world”, which allegedly took place in 5508 BC. e., that is, according to the old Roman style. The year began on March 1, when they started agricultural production. work. This continued until the end of the 15th century, when the beginning of the year was postponed to September 1, according to the Greek calendar. Indeed, it was on September 1 that various annual duties were collected from the people (quitrent, tribute, etc.) and such a transfer was convenient for the authorities.

A beautifully decorated wreath with a glowing snow globe ornament that has a cute yellow house covered in snow inside. Credit:NYC Stock Photos

In 1699, P e t p first , which as you know was a big fan of the whole European,ordered to celebrate the New Year in Russia from 31.12 to 01.01. During his reign, the tree was not yet erected, but the dwelling was decorated with separate spruce branches. At the same time, the main thing at the holiday was not a plentiful table, but dancing. Balls quickly became fashionable in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and then throughout Russia. Therefore, almost until the middle of the 19th century, the Russian New Year’s menu as such did not exist, and those dishes that today are considered an invariable part of the New Year’s feast – suckling pigs with buckwheat porridge, geese with apples – actually came from the Christmas table. Until the beginning of the 19th century, even in the homes of the nobility, quite ordinary and simple dishes were served to the New Year’s table: pickled cucumbers and mushrooms, sauerkraut, baked piglets, fried pellets, veal fricassee, boiled trout, etc. As a dessert: apricots, oranges, grapes and pears – in St. Petersburg, and in Moscow, greenhouses were in vogue, in which fruits were grown right in the middle of winter. We drank vodka, liqueurs and liqueurs, German and homemade Russian beer.At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the festive menu becomes more and more diverse. Anchovies, lobsters, sardines, salmon, caviar, smelt, cod, cheeses and watermelons appear on the New Year’s table. Grouse and turkey are beginning to compete with traditional piglets and geese as the main course. Along with vodka and beer, champagne, cognacs, French, Spanish, Italian and German wines are also used. And it was at this time that the tree became the main decoration of city and village houses, until 1918, when, due to the fact that the decorated Christmas tree belonged to Christmas (that is, the church religion), it was banned for 17 years (until 1935).After the revolution, the celebration of the New Year was also canceled, but they still greeted it, however, they danced on the sly, so as not to wake up the neighbors. It was then, apparently, that the habit of sitting at the table arose. The Soviet New Year’s table was modest – in the forties, the holiday was greeted with vodka, boiled potatoes and herring. In the fifties, it was no longer considered reprehensible to celebrate the new year, and they began to gather not only in a narrow circle, but also in a large company. On the tables appeared: jelly, herring under a fur coat, Baltic sprats, Olivier salad – with doctor’s sausage instead of hazel grouses. To the chimes, it was imperative to open a bottle of “Soviet Champagne”. In cramped apartments, the table took up the whole place, so you had to choose: dancing or eating. With the advent of televisions, the table finally won out.

shot of Champagne flutes in table for two over golden holiday background. Christmas and New Year celebration Credit:apomares

Closer to the origins
Meanwhile, the peoples who lived in relative isolation from European civilization for a long time retained New Year’s traditions close to their original (Babylonian-Assyrian) version. So, for example, the Circassians, one of the most ancient ethnic groups of the North Caucasus, until the end of the 19th century. celebrated the New Year on March 22, the day of the vernal equinox, when the length of day and night is compared. This day was considered the day when the juices begin to move in the plants, the earth revives. For a people whose life was closely connected with nature, this was an important, turning point, associated with the victory of the light forces over the dark. Therefore, the celebration of the New Year was accompanied by rites of sacrifice of a black chicken, black lamb, black bull, which, as it were, personified darkness and evil spirits. According to popular belief, such a sacrifice symbolized the victory of good over evil. The ceremony began with the singing of an ancient hymn praising the gods. After that, one of the women heated a piece of fat of the sacrificial animal over an open fire, which began to drip into the fire, spreading a specific smell. At the same time, she pronounced spells calling on the gods to send down happiness and prosperity to people. Then the most respected of the women present cut the three ritual cakes laid on top of each other and offered up a prayer dedicated to this bread to the gods. From a fire into which animal fat was dripping, a circle made of combustible material was lit on a high pole, and festive dances began around it. In addition, New Year’s Eve was usually accompanied by fortune-tellingon a lamb shoulder. During fortune-telling, they looked at the light through the shoulder blade and predicted the harvest, weather and even family events (weddings, childbirth, funerals) by the spots on the bones. The razdnik was completed by Udzh – one of the ancient round dance dances, repeating with its “pattern” the solar sign. On the following holidays, the Circassians held horse races, went to visit, congratulated each other with original wishes for the coming year.

snowman in winter with trees Credit:Karstenlarsen

General and specific
One cannot but be surprised at the diversity of national characteristics and nuances introduced by various peoples to the New Year celebrations throughout its centuries-old history. In this series, there are also numerous “substitutes” for traditional Christmas trees, starting with dwarf tangerine trees among the Chinese and ending with the so-called beard of Saint Basili (Vasily – the patron saint of animals), which was a Georgian Christmas tree-chichilaki made of logs skillfully chopped into long, thinnest shavings – as if curling a gray beard (in the old days, fruits were hung on this “Christmas tree” and the rite of burning it was performed so that Saint Basil would send a good harvest next year). Here are the Vietnamese, who celebrate the New Year in the dark, and then make fires and cook rice treats on them, and the Thais, who celebrate the New Year in such heat, that you have to pour water on each other when you meet, and Italians, on New Year’s Eve throwing old things out of the windows and replacing them with new ones, and Chechens, who put a long, uncut log in the hearth and sit down at the table only when the log is burned out, is reduced to such a size that you can close the front door behind it. This includes various festive processions, masquerades and carnivals.

Fireworks over the Moscow Kremlin on New Year 2015 Credit:Caps_Lock

But … against the background of all this dazzling diversity, there is something important that unites all people of our planet in the New Year, regardless of their faith, nationality and race – the celebration of the New Year, whenever it happens – in winter, spring or autumn – is fraught with a particle of miracle and is always accompanied by the most joyful feelings. It is associated with peace, love and understanding. On this day, the closest people gather and the charm of New Year’s Eve will be remembered for a long time.

Christmas-tree decorations on a christmas fur-tree. New Year background Credit:shcherbak volodymyr

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