January 01, 1998

Why Christmas Toys are Us

The yolka is the centerpiece of Russians’ Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. And the toys that decorate the yolka have an unusual power.

Every Russian associates his favorite holiday – New Year’s – with different things:  some with the omnipresent TV movie Ironia Sudby (The Irony of Fate), some with snow and frost or a hearty meal, some drivers with the dozing and unusually nonchalant traffic police. But, if you ask a Russian to go back in time to his favorite childhood memory, he will most likely name the trimming of the tree – a custom that came to Russia in the middle of the 19th century.

Alexandra Luchsheva, a lifelong Muscovite, born in 1910, recalled: “My brightest childhood impressions – and I remember from when I was about four – are connected with the yolka (fir tree). We children were always looking forward to Christmas and the New Year. We were watching the adults take the boxes with Christmas toys, decorations and candles off the shelves!”

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