(Happy New Year)
The Communists had a problem. The biggest holiday of the year in Russia was Christmas. But having proven scientifically that God didn’t exist, let alone his son, they had to get rid of Christmas as a holiday. But what would take its place? Were they going to get rid of Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), Christmas trees, gift giving, the whole kit & kaboodle? Even the Roman Emperor Constantine, when he made Rome Christian, knew he couldn’t completely do away with the old pagan holidays, which is why Christmas exists in the first place. So what would the commies do? They moved all the celebrations to New Year’s, a nice secular holiday. And even now, years after the end of the Soviet Union, New Year’s has remained the biggest holiday of the year.
Most Russians spend the holiday at their dachas or at home with friends and family, but that doesn’t stop tens of thousands from converging on Red Square for some major festivities. After gorging ourselves on food and vodka at a Georgian restaurant, that’s where my girl and I, with our friends, headed.
After considerable effort to get there (we had stopped at someone’s flat for a couple more drinks, only to find at 11:40 that the metro was closed. So we had to take a couple of cabs, arriving at 11:55), we found the square crowded with revelers, drinking champagne and lighting fireworks. (Drunk Russians with explosives! That’s where I want to be!)
Red Square was quite beautiful, all lit up in its visual splendor. The sky was littered with bottle rockets. All around us were lights and explosions, we had to constant dodge errant rockets and flames. I felt like I was in a war zone, what with all the whistles and pops happening around us. People were even lighting rockets in empty champagne bottles, so on top of everything else there was exploding glass. Our friend actually had a firecracker bounce off her head and then explode on the ground. I’m surprised I didn’t see at least one person on fire.
But still everything was beautiful and entertaining. As Simon kept saying, “This is my life!” and it was so true. I mean, New Year’s Eve in Red Square. Something to tell the grandkids. Fireworks bursting in the cold, clear air above St. Basil’s and Lenin’s Tomb. Large groups of men from Central Asia dancing in big circles. Little kids with sparklers in their hands. There was nowhere else in the world I would have rather been.
And as the clock struck midnight on the big clock on Nickolsky Tower, there were hugs and kisses for everybody, and “C Novym Godom!” echoed through the square.