We have talked about the traditional New Year’s celebration in Russian homes, with an abundant meal, elaborate toasts, watching TV, and the midnight countdown. However, New Year being the biggest holiday in Russia, it is also celebrated outside the home — at school and at work. Let us go over some celebrations Russian encounter throughout their lives.
The word утренник comes from утро, so this type of celebration traditionally takes place earlier in the day. It is a celebration typical for Russian детские сады (literally kindergartens, actually daycare centers for children aged 3-6). Children dress up (наряжаются) and prepare skits (сценки), songs (песни), or dances (танцы). Parents often are invited to watch the show. This type of celebration is not limited to the New Year and may take place at the beginning of the school year, for public holidays, etc. Many утренники end with a чаепитие (tea party) when children bring sweet dishes (сладости) to share and have tea at a long common table.
Ёлка is the short for ель – spruce or any Christmas tree. It also refers to the winter celebrations organized for children either by local community centers, their parents’ workplace, or as a paid entertainment event by theaters and other concert venues. Ёлки usually involve skits by Дед Мороз (Father Frost) and Снегурочка, group activities in a хоровод (moving, dancing, or playing a game in a circle), and, finally, gifts (подарки) for the children — paid for the by the parents, of course.
Many школы (middle and high schools) will host concerts stages by the students. Each class (класс) — as you remember, everyone in a класс takes all of their subjects at the same time — will put on its own show. These concerts tend to be mixed-genre, featuring singing, dancing, acting, poetry, and other performance arts. In my experience, they tend to be more “amateur” and DIY and less choreographed and big-production-like than their US counterparts. (People from other countries, chime in! What are school concerts like in your country?) Participation is often not competitive, and there are no auditions. Theoretically, everyone gets a chance to participate, although you may end up being the tree in the background.
Застолье (за столом – at the table) may describe any festive meal, usually with a lot of invitees, often potluck-style (вскладчину). People often have this type of celebration at work, and New Year’s is certainly one of the most important occasions. People bring food, often sweet, and alcohol, and celebrate the upcoming holidays during the last days before the winter break.
Корпоратив is a company party, often at a rented venue. These tend to have catering and entertainment, but the word корпоратив may have negative connotations in Russian. It evokes the image of a Western-style company that’s trying too hard, while its employees would rather be home than attend the obligatory festivities. Not everyone shares this impression, of course.
Have you been to any of these or any other celebrations in Russia? What’s your favorites? Does you country have anything similar?