Celebrating the New Year According to the Old Style

On January 14th, many Russians celebrate a holiday with an unusual name − the Old New Year, that is, the New Year in the old style, which is celebrated on a smaller scale than the night from December 31st to January 1st.

We talked about the history of this holiday to Natalia Parfentyeva, Head of the Department of Theology, Culture and Art at the SUSU Institute of Media, Social Sciences and Humanities.

In 1918, the Bolshevik government decided to change the calendar. Tsarist Russia lived according to the Julian calendar, while Europe lived according to the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar had been created in the Roman Empire and had been based on ancient Egyptian astronomy. The Gregorian calendar had been more accurate − it had been created in the 16th century, taking into account the latest knowledge about the structure of the universe. The difference between the two counting systems was 13 days and created inconvenience for conducting international political and economic affairs, and also led to funny incidents in everyday life. For example, judging by the dates on the postmarks, it turned out that the telegram could be received in Europe several days earlier than sent from Russia.

"The transition to the Western European calendar took place on February 14, 1918. According to the decree, the main goal of the entire project was "to establish in Russia the same method of numbering as the one adopted by almost all civilized peoples". However, the Russian clergy did not agree with the transition to a new style and did not abandon the Julian calendar. But this was not so important for the Bolsheviks, who had already signed the Decree on the separation of church from state and school from church. The old style became unofficial," reports Natalia Parfentyeva.

Today, the Russian Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar. Therefore, Christmas in our country is celebrated on January 7th, and in Catholic countries on December 25th. Interesting fact: the Orthodox Church celebrates the New Year on September 14th (on September 1st according to the old style), counted not from the Nativity of Christ, but from the creation of the world. During the secular New Year holidays, believers keep the Nativity fast.

"In Russia, according to statistics, the Old New Year is celebrated by about half of our country’s population, who have a tradition of gathering at the festive table. And a number of museums and cultural organizations devote thematic exhibitions to this holiday, which are very interesting to visit!"

Each country has its own traditions. There are similar holidays in the countries of the former USSR, as well as in Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Algeria, Tunisia, and many other countries. In the German-speaking regions of Switzerland, for example, on January 13th, they celebrate the old St. Sylvester's Day, dress up in fancy clothes and wish each other a Happy New Year. In Macedonia, carnivals are held on New Year's Day according to the old calendar. There is an analogue of our holiday in Wales − the Hen Galan festival. It also means the onset of the New Year according to the Julian calendar, and on this day children can go from house to house singing Christmas carols and receiving sweets as gifts.

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