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Los Cuadernos de Julia

Festive Spirit and Traditions


I’m reading a lot about people not looking forward to celebrating New Year in Russia. Some are tired, some are angry, some are disillusioned… there have been lots of reason to feel down in the last two years. Festive spirit was spirited away, excuse the pun.

Back in 2009 I also felt ropey: I was laid off in September, amidst the new wave of economic crisis, and by December I still hadn’t found a new job. But I was hopeful: hopeful to find the job and hopeful to pay off what I owed, hopeful to be healthy and happy in 2010, and hopeful that the economy would stabilise. Little did I know that I would go back to Russia in 2010, and the economy would indeed stabilise, and I would never be out of work again.

Albert Square in November 2009

I’m trying to say that we are now in the fantastic period when we are surrounded by glitz and joy. No matter how difficult it may be to brace yourself and feel pleased, we must make an effort because times change. They change because we are not trees – we can move and look at things from a different angle. We can try doing things differently and succeed. There is no need to make vows and resolutions. Just set your sights on making your life a little better each day. A little more effort takes us a long way forward.

My students and I have been reading about English and Scottish festive traditions. It sounds funny, but English seem all about food, whereas Scots are all about home: cleaning it, saining and blessing it, even first-footing it. I have no doubt that food is very important for Hogmanay, but the emphasis really seems to be on one’s home. Two neighbouring countries – and somewhat different festive traditions. Not to mention the fact that Christmas is not so widely celebrated in Scotland, whereas the English do not care much about New Year.

So, where do you get that festive spirit from, amidst all cooking and cleaning? I think it is all about remember the bigger picture. Yes, the holidays come and go, but life goes on, and we’d better make it as joyful and easy for ourselves as we can. I am looking at this Christmas tree now and remembering the one we used to decorate in Moscow. I will share a picture of it with you later. Having a tree with lots of baubles and sparkling lights is a great tradition, and it does not need to be huge. But I’d love to have it huge one day again, like it was in my childhood. Then I’d sit beneath it and marvel at it. And I’d make all the right wishes for them to come true…

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