Thursday, January 6

Christmas and everything that followed...

Firstly, in case you didn't notice, this is the second post today - yes, after being so lazy for a month I'm making two in one day! - therefore, if you really want to know everything I've been up to, I recommend you read the post below first. Oh and sorry for the sheer length of this post. That is all.

A lot of people found my decision to stay in Russia during the Christmas period surprising, but I'm really glad I did. Luckily a few of the people I've met here were also planning to stay, so we got to be all creative and make our own Christmas from scratch. As I said in the previous post, Russians don't celebrate anything at all on the 25th of December... It was quite a weird feeling to see people going about their daily business on Christmas Day! I actually really enjoyed preparing for Christmas, and I think we all did really well considering it was all of our first time doing it all ourselves, and not just sitting back as our parents/grandparents prepared it all for us...

Our first Christmassy get-together was on Christmas Eve, when we all went to my friend Luka's flat for food, drinks and Articulate (an awesome word game, which I must buy when I get home). It was a lovely evening, and highlights included the phrase "I can't believe it's Christmas already" being said numerous times, an absolutely DELICIOUS cake and several different people spilling several different drinks for no obvious reason. It was a lovely start to our Christmas celebrations, and I suppose it was when it finally hit me that I was going to be spending Christmas Day in Russia. Here are some pictures to document the EVEnt (see what I did there?):

(Top Left: Lovely people in Luka's kitchen; Top Right: Tipsily-taken photo of Christmas lights on the way home, included to keep the pattern of photos I like on here; Bottom: Destroyed cake - it was so delicious it sent us all into an animalistic rage)

I got back from the Christmas Eve party fairly early, luckily early enough to finish my personal preparations for Christmas Day - a chocolate log and crackers. I iced the log and added the final touches to my crackers and got an early night, knowing when I woke up it'd be CHRISTMAS! Eee!

Oh, and here are some pictures of the crackers I made since I can't think of another place to put them in this post:

(Everyone got a balloon, toy, sweets, hat and a joke - I tried to make them as authentic as possible!)

I woke up, and it was CHRISTMAS! Eee! I was greeted by a lovely unexpected present from my amazing Russian landlady Rosa, who had placed it under our miniature Christmas tree on the kitchen table. She got me a nice Nivea toiletry bag with yummy-smelling toiletries inside :) After this lovely start to the day, I proceeded to get ready and go to Pippa, Seb and George's flat for Christmassy fun times. Presents, crackers and chocolate log in hands, I trekked across the city, wondering if anyone even knew t was (our) Christmas Day here... The Band Aid song springs to mind ;)

All systems were go when I arrived at the flat - George and Pippa were being all Ready Steady Cook with military precision. I was impressed. Seb arrived shortly after and wowed everyone with his knowledge of carrot shapes - "So, you want them Julienned?" Luka also arrived, and our Christmas fivesome was complete. After a few drinks and a little cooking, we sat down for present-giving time. Pippa gave me an amazing nautical scarf she had knitted and a vintage Soviet sailor badge :D I also got a tasty chocolate Santa from Luka. Here are some pictures of the present-giving:


(Top Left: Russian Christmas tree!; Top Right: My awesome new scarf, hand-made by Pippa; Bottom: Pippa with her present from me - a Cheburashka (Soviet cartoon she likes) cushion)

The next notable event of the day was of course Christmas dinner! I don't really know what else to say about it other than the fact it was extremely tasty and we were all very full afterwards. Here are some pictures to visually describe the food timeline:

(I don't think I need to describe the pictures - I hope they speak for themselves, and show why we were all so full!)

So yes, that was my Christmas Day. It was really fun and I'm glad I stayed in Russia for it, because I suppose I'll remember it forever as my first Russian Christmas :)

Between Christmas and New Year I did precisely nothing. A few days were spent feeling very full and not really needing to eat anything, then a few days were spent sitting around watching films and playing computer games, and then it was New Year's Eve already. Russians go absolutely nuts for New Year's Eve - they have a tree, give presents, eat loads of food and have Дед Мороз (Grandfather Frost - their version of Father Christmas). It's very similar to English Christmas only on a different day.

We all celebrated New Year's Eve with a party at our friend Nick's house. I think at one point we'd intended to go out to a bar afterwards, but in the end we couldn't really be bothered. We had lots of drinks, tasty food (cooked by Nick's girlfriend, who is from Kyrgyzstan) and several games of Uno - a pleasant evening was had. Here are some pictures from NYE:

(Top Left: Remnants of home-made Russian salad; Top Right: Medvedev's televised New Year speech - kind of like the Queen's speech at home; Bottom: Me and Pippa shortly after Midnight)

Like the few days after Christmas, I didn't do a lot following New Year's Eve. I got invited into my landlady's flat several times to help eat all of the leftovers from their celebrations, including several salads which oddly all seemed to contain lethal amounts of garlic... I only ventured out of the house again on Tuesday, when me and Pippa went for a nice (albeit chilly) walk around the city. I'll end this HUGE post with a few pictures from said walk:

(Top Left: Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood; Top Right: Frozen Neva; Bottom: View of the Hermitage across the frozen Neva)

I'd like to say congratulations to anyone who managed to reach the bottom of this post without falling asleep, I think it must be my record longest post... Oh well, I've got it all out of the way now! I'm going to try and update at least once a week now, to make my posts a bit shorter and more concise :P

Once again, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!


Pre-Christmas epic post...

Hello! I've been so lazy recently, and I figured I may as well make the New Year's resolution to write in my blog more, so here goes. Firstly I plan to update you all on everything that happened in the run up to Christmas, in this post. Then I intend to write another epic post all about Christmas Day and everything that's followed it...

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! if I haven't already said it to you. It's a bit late now but hey, better late than never.

I feel I should mention now that Russians don't celebrate Christmas as we do. They do have a Christmas, but it's on January 6th/7th rather than December 25th. That said, nobody actually celebrates that Christmas apart from very religious people, so their main celebration is New Year. Because of this, we had to invent our own Christmas from scratch for the 25th :D

The run up to Christmas was mainly filled with school. Less and less people started coming in the nearer it got to the holidays, but it wasn't too bad. A few lessons were filled with the watching of lovely Russian films, so I was never particularly bored. One of the films we got to watch was Ирония Судьбы - Продолжение (The Irony of Fate 2) which was actually lovely, and sort of like the Russian version of Love Actually or something. A lot of Russians hate it because it pretty much bastardises the original from the 70s, which is a Russian New Year classic - they show it on several channels at once on New Year's Eve here. Anyway, I thoroughly recommend the sequel, though maybe watch the first one beforehand if you can, as it's great in its own way. A week before the end of term, we all had to take tests to check we'd actually learnt something. They weren't too bad, and I'm happy with how I did, though I've only got the marks back for 2/5 tests so far, so it could all go wrong still...

Also at school, we had a Christmas party. It was proper primary school-style, with each class having to dress up and give a performance. It was really fun, and my class performed a song we wrote to the tune of '12 Days of Christmas', only we changed it to '12 Days of Russia' and included lots of different things we've experienced in Russia. It was lovely to see what the other classes had done, which included a modern version of the Nativity, acting out the teachers getting drunk, and performing a cartoon all the classes had watched as a play. Everyone did amazingly well, and it was especially nice to get everyone together since some people aren't coming back next term :(

I didn't do a huge amount of sightseeing between my last post and Christmas. I'm mainly holding back on sightseeing because my mum and her boyfriend are arriving at the end of next week so I'll go to lots of places with them. One thing I did do though was go to an awesome exhibition of digital art (Yota Space Festival) at an abandoned department store, with my friend Flick. The department store was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which we discovered when we tried to get lunch nearby beforehand... After 10 minutes or so of wandering aimlessly in very strong, very cold winds, we finally found a Чайная Ложка (Tea Spoon - a Russian pancake chain) and settled down for lunch. It was really SO cold that day, I think it must be the coldest I've felt since I got here! Despite this, we braved the outside once again and walked to the department store. What greeted us was a wondrous world of trippy art installations in pitch black rooms, accompanied with good music and (unfortunately) hordes of Russians. We had a nice time wandering round, and also watched a lecture by an English DJ cum artist called Matt Black (nope, we'd never heard of him either). The lecture was a little long and not particularly interesting, but it was fun and probably useful to listen to him speak in English followed by a direct Russian translation of what he said. The exhibition was only temporary, so I'm really glad I went, as it really was an awesome experience.

Here are some photos I took there - please bear in mind my camera seems to hate taking photos in the dark:

(Top: Mesmerising light sticks which changed colour, moved and made noises as you walked near them; Middle: Gorgeous red-lit staircase; Bottom: Lecture by Matt Black - there were several different lectures each day)

The only other really notable thing I can remember from before Christmas was the super Christmas Market on Nevsky. It was really cool wandering round the stalls and browsing Christmassy/New Yeary things, souvenirs, presents, hats and plenty more. Here are some pictures from the market, because I don't really know what else to say about it other than the fact it was totally cute and really got me in the mood for Christmas:

(Top Left: Christmas Market; Top Right: Cute teddy made of lights at the Christmas Market; Bottom: Me in my new hat I got at the Christmas Market - Not real fur!)

I think I'll end this post here, and start on the next epic - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and everything since!

Naomi :)