NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS: CULTURAL PECULIARITIES
The New Year celebration is loved and anticipated in both Russia and Singapore. However, it is observed in accordance with different calendars
The New Year in Russia
What Fun It Is to Laugh and Sing
When celebrating the New Year, it is customary in Russia to pay visits to friends and relatives, indulge in festive food and merriment, set off firecrackers and take a sip of champagne at midnight. There is nothing uniquely Russian about this series of actions, which has for centuries been performed in both Europe and Asia with minor variations. What makes the Russian New Year celebration distinctive, though, are two characters in the form of dolls, which every year find their way from the upper shelves of stuffy closets to underneath the decorated fir tree; or, as dressed-up actors, come to children's parties to bestow gifts of sweets on the little ones in return for the recitation of a poem or a dance performance. This duo is known as Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.
Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) is a Russian New Year folklore character, who symbolises the "old" year, winter with its frosts and everything good and kind. Although he shares similarities with the Anglo-American Santa Claus, the French Pere Noel and the Finnish Yolupukki, the Russian Ded Moroz has some unique features: his outfit is a long fur coat rather than a short jacket, he is accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka instead of elves and reindeer, he prefers to walk rather than fly across the skies in a sled and he does not come via the chimney.
Ded Moroz is a symbiosis between an ancient Slavic anthropomorphic representation of a cold winter (an old man with a magic staff who summons biting frosts) and a Christian tradition (St Nicholas who, before he died and was canonised, had taken care of orphans and the crippled, especially children).
She is an ancient image representing a cold beauty shaped from snow by a childless couple out of despair. According to another tradition, she is a daughter of Frost and the Snow Queen. Incapable of love, Snegurochka is unable to fit in within the world of humans with their flammable emotions, so she melts. As time has passed, there has been some evolution to Snegurochka's character, and now she is viewed as the granddaughter of Ded Moroz who helps him organise New Year celebrations for children and distribute gifts.
In the Russian town of Kostroma, we find Snegurochka's Tower – a kind of interactive museum where visitors get to know everything about this mythical character and her magic paraphernalia, and are informed about ancient Slavic myths and legends.
The New Year in Singapore
Singapore celebrates the New Year according to both theWestern and Eastern – Chinese – calendars. But while the change of years at the night from December 31 to January 1 is not a huge event for Singaporeans, the Chinese New Year is celebrated in grand style – for 15 days and ends with the Lantern Festival!
Also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, it is a period of visiting older relatives and friends. It is considered to bring good luck and wealth if you wear a new item on clothes every festive day!
The final days of the old year are given over to intense preparations, as houses are cleaned in the belief that disappointments and mistakes are swept along with the dirt and dust of the past. These days are also the time to settle debts, resolve arguments or return favours.
The year of 2010 will begin on the 14th of February and will be the year of the Tiger.
The Chinese New Year is associated with many symbols and customs and each of them has its own importance and a deep meaning in it. Let's cast a glance at some of the traditions that are still observed in Singapore in hope to bring prosperity and happiness in the lives.
Surprisingly for westerners, flowers play an important part of the Chinese New Year decorations, especially plum blossoms. The blossoms burst forth at the end of winter on a seemingly lifeless branch. In China, the New Year is called the Spring Festival because the first day of the Chinese New Year announces the beginning of spring.
Symbolizing good luck, because of their
shape and colour, and because the Cantonese pronunciation for Tangerines is similar in sound
to "gold", tangerines are a usual gift during
this season. It is customary to present an even number
tangerines (usually two) to your host, using both hands, with the wish.
The festive mood
around the island is
kept up with flamboyant colours
and rowdy noises of
the Lion Dance conducted in
various locations. The loud noise from the
performance and the Chinese crackers are considered
to be able to ward off evil and thus bring good luck to the family.