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!