How Stalin Introduced Christmas Traditions to Russia’s New Year Celebrations

Christmas and all other religious holidays were outlawed in Russia by the Communist regime following the 1917 revolution. Anyone who dared to celebrate Christmas or display any symbol of the holiday was subject to fines or imprisonment. For many years children in the Soviet Union were without a holiday to celebrate – until a curious thing happened in 1935.

Joseph Stalin with daughter Svetlana in 1935

The British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Aretas Akers-Douglas, not only held a Christmas celebration at the British embassy in Moscow that year, but he invited Premier Stalin to attend. Stalin, of course, could not attend a Christmas celebration, but for some reason he allowed his children, Vasili and Svetlana, to go. After witnessing how happy his children were after attending the Christmas party, Stalin devised a plan to create a celebration that would make children and their parents happy, thereby creating support for the regime.

In a weekly government radio address a few days after the ambassador’s party, it was announced that Comrade Stalin had declared a celebration to be held to commemorate the progress the country was making on its economic plans. In addition, Stalin wanted to bring this celebration into the home of all Russians, so he mandated that by the first of January, every family would have a live New Year’s tree to celebrate the achievements of the Soviet Union.

In addition to the New Year’s tree, several other traditions were added to the celebration. Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost brings children gifts on New Year’s Day, and the Winter Festival, a tradition instituted by the Soviet Government, is still celebrated in Moscow today.

с Новым годом! Happy New Year! A stamp created by the Russian Federation in 1992.

 

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many Russians began to celebrate Christmas again (the Russian Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar, so Christmas is celebrated on January 7th in Russia), but it is strictly a religious celebration since presents, trees, and other secular elements of the holiday remain part of the New Year’s celebration.

Check out these articles to learn more about how Russians are celebrating this year:

From the Associated Press: Israel Warms Up to New Year’s, Soviet-Style

From NPR: For Russians, New Year’s Eve Remains the Superholiday

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12 Responses to How Stalin Introduced Christmas Traditions to Russia’s New Year Celebrations

  1. Calisa Rhose says:

    Nice article, Ally. Very interesting.

  2. Hi Ally, interesting blog today! I truly had no idea. See how I take things for granted and just assume everyone is celebrating Christmas :) Always glad to learn something new. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Ally says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Christine. I’m glad you learned something new. I think it’s difficult for people who grew up in the United States to imagine what it’s like in other places. I’ve studied Russia for many years, but I never really thought about how holidays were (or were not) celebrated until I started researching my current manuscript.

  3. Ceri Hebert says:

    Very interesting! I had no idea about this. Thanks for sharing the information!

  4. I love getting stories on other times and other cultures. Thanks for posting this. Very informative.

    Happy and successful new years to everyone.

  5. Angelyn says:

    Oh, never put it past a propagandist to find new and clever ways to reinvent the old. Wonderful post, as always!

  6. Ella Quinn says:

    Ally, Great post. Happy New Year

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