02:53 GMT +322 September 2019
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    Visitors at the fair in Red Square

    Starry Sky: Moscow Transforms for the New Year

    © Sputnik / Maxim Blinov
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    In Russia, the New Year is traditionally considered a family holiday, with lots of Russian salads on the table. However, over the past 5 years, both visitors and citizens prefer celebrating the holidays on the capital’s streets. And it’s not surprising because during winter the city flashes with thousands of lights, becoming truly fabulous.

    Centuries-long Tradition

    The New Year is one of Russia's main holidays; it goes back to ancient times. However, until 1700, the holiday was celebrated in March; then, beginning in the 15th century, it was September 1 that was considered the start of the year. Peter I, the first Russian emperor, introduced a new chronology starting from the birth of Christ. As a result, the year 7208 from "creation of the world" became the year 1699 since the birth of Christ.

    The emperor also ordered that the New Year should be celebrated on January 1, as it was in Europe. Moreover, Peter the Great told people to decorate fir trees and the main streets of Moscow. So fir became the symbol of both Christmas and the New Year.

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    The townspeople were told to congratulate each other, launch fireworks, and fire off rifles to celebrate the holiday. There were huge fireworks with guns and rifles organised on Red Square. At around the same time, a tradition of folk festivals and masquerades appeared.

    In 1917, after the czar's demise, both Christmas and the New Year were considered symbols of the old order and were therefore cancelled; the city's New Year trees and decorations disappeared as well. It was only in 1935, under Stalin, when the holiday, Christmas trees and decorations returned to the country. Since 1947, January 1 is a day off; and since 1969-1970, every year there is a New Year address by the head of state to the people.

    Happy New Year! Moscow, 1939
    © Sputnik / Anatoliy Garanin
    Happy New Year! Moscow, 1939

    In the Soviet era, in December, Moscow was decorated with Christmas trees, huge figures of Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), snowmen, fairy lights, and festive banners. There were also Christmas fairs and markets organised throughout the city.

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    The tradition remained even after the collapse of the Soviet Union; the city is still decorated for the New Year and Christmas. However, over the past few years, a special scenario takes place each December.

    Christmas tree on 50th anniversary of October Square (now Manezhnaya square)
    © Sputnik / L. Nosov
    Christmas tree on 50th anniversary of October Square (now Manezhnaya square)

    Since 2012, great attention has been paid in Moscow to creating comfortable public spaces in accordance with international standards — there are new pedestrian streets with budget-friendly shops and cafes. Moscow's foreign guests are more often saying that the Russian capital has changed and become more convenient.

    For seven years there has been a programme to create a unique light space in Moscow using architectural and artistic lighting of buildings, bridges, and monuments.

    Design in a Big City

    In 2012, new pedestrian streets appeared in Moscow — Kamergersky and Stoleshnikov lanes, Kuznetsky Most and Rozhdestvenka. However, it was a year later, in 2013-2014, that a single concept of urban design for the New Year was born.

    Additionally, at the request of the Moscow Culture Department, Artemy Lebedev Studio developed a New Year's logo, pattern, vignettes, borders, and pictograms to create a festive image of the city. The new concept has been called "Best City of Winter".

    A participant during the festive events on Chistoprudny Boulevard in Moscow
    © Sputnik / Evgenya Novozhenina
    A participant during the festive events on Chistoprudny Boulevard in Moscow

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    New pedestrian areas, as well as boulevards and squares, were then decorated with unusual elements and light fixtures. In total, about 12,000 light objects with reduced energy consumption have been installed in Moscow. Light trees and "Starry Sky" light constructions appeared in the city. At the same time, the first "Journey to Christmas" festival, which opened a whole series of "Moscow Seasons", was held.

    Serpentine of Lights

    The next year, for the 2014-2015 celebration, a new concept called "The Serpentine Lights" was created to decorate Russia's capital; and pedestrian streets flashed with original light constructions.

    A mirror installation on Moscow's Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street
    © Sputnik / Evgenya Novozhenina
    A mirror installation on Moscow's Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street

    Thousands of Christmas trees appeared in the city, both traditional trees and creative ones made from modern materials.

    Moscow's major squares — Smolenskaya, Zubovskaya, Paveletskaya, Serpukhovskaya, Taganskaya, and others — were decorated with fir trees of the same height but individual design. It's interesting that at that time it was Muscovites who chose the design concept through a portal named Active Citizen.

    Holiday installations on Teatralnaya Square in Moscow
    © Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich
    Holiday installations on Teatralnaya Square in Moscow

    Moscow's traditional New Year and Christmas decorations complemented the images commemorating the Year of Russian Literature announced in the country in 2015.

    Postage Stamp

    At the turn of 2015-2016, a postage stamp was the inspiration for the capital's decoration for the New Year. The thing is that New Year and Christmas is time for congratulations and good wishes, and it's the postcard and the postage stamp that ccomesto mind.

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    Moreover, huge 3D constructions, large Christmas baubles and flower-shaped light fountains appeared in Moscow's squares and public spaces. All these elements had a common theme inspired by the postage stamp — "New Year mood".

    Moscow's Main Department Store decorated for Christmas and the New Year's Eve
    © Sputnik / Sergey Pyatakov
    Moscow's Main Department Store decorated for Christmas and the New Year's Eve

    GUM, one of the country's main department stores, was also decorated in a similar style.

    Friendship With Italy

    For the 2017 holiday, Moscow was decorated in Italian style. Italian ornaments were the main theme; these were used both in the 2017 New Year logo and urban lighting designs. According tothe Russian authorities, the cultures of Russia and Italy are historically similar. Illuminated structures, such as large baubles, arches, and illuminated fountains were important elements of the city's festive image.

    New Year illumination on Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow
    © Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich
    New Year illumination on Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow

    The New Year illumination of the "Journey to Christmas" festival turned out to be especially vivid and memorable. Even Muscovites themselves, though they'd already started getting used to the festive look of the city, were walking along the streets admiring and taking pictures of the luxurious decorations.

    All the World's a Stage

    Theatre was the theme for the 2017-2018 festival. Theatre stages, figures wearing masks, illuminated scenes, and huge fans appeared in the streets. The city literally turned into a sparkling open-air theatre.

    Due to the "Journey to Christmas" festival, Tverskaya, Mokhovaya, and Okhotny Ryad streets were closed to traffic from December 31 to January 3.

    A tourist amidst New Year decorations on Manezhnaya Square
    © Sputnik / Iliya Pitalev
    A tourist amidst New Year decorations on Manezhnaya Square

    There were various performances and plays during the festival; visitors had a chance to enjoy some unique street food dishes, take beautiful pictures, as well as sing and dance.

    Universal Stock

    Not all New Year decorations are created specifically for each year; a lot of them are repeatedly used.

    Moscow's United Energy Company explained that "Moscow has hoarded an adequate supply of decorative elements, which makes it possible to decorate the city at a relatively low cost".

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    There are several large objects that are repeatedly used, such as light arches, which can be seen on Tverskaya and Pushkin squares, as well as on Revolution Square, in Kamergersky and Gazetny Lanes and in Novopushkinsky Park. Both visitors and residents of Russia's capital particularly loved the "Starry Sky" light fixtures on Bolshaya Dmitrovka and Nikolskaya streets as well as the lighted trees.

    Light installations set up on Mysnitskaya Street as part of the Christmas Light International Festival in Moscow
    © Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich
    Light installations set up on Mysnitskaya Street as part of the Christmas Light International Festival in Moscow

    "In general, most of the New Year's decorations can either be reinstalled, or be renewed to get a different look", the United Energy Company added.

    For Every Taste

    A lollipop vendor at the traditional GUM Fair near the GUM skating rink on Moscow's Red Square.
    © Sputnik / Iliya Pitalev
    A lollipop vendor at the traditional GUM Fair near the GUM skating rink on Moscow's Red Square.

    There are all sorts of New Year and Christmas festivals and markets in Moscow. The markets on Manezhnaya and Red squares have already become traditional. In addition to trade pavilions, there is quite a lot of entertainment at these bazaars, such as merry-go-rounds or swings; there's also an ice rink set up on Red Square.

    There are also Christmas markets and fairs on pedestrian streets like Kuznetsky Most. There is entertainment in Moscow's parks as well; for example, Europe's largest skating rinks are at VDNKH, Sokolniki and Gorky Park.

    All these changes have resulted in Moscow growing in popularity with tourists — both domestic and foreign. Many tourists have noted the change in Russia's capital. Today, along with other European capitals, foreigners are increasingly choosing Moscow for their New Year holidays.

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    Tags:
    New Year celebration, New Year, history, Moscow, Russia
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