Sunday, January 15, 2006

Holiday Cheer!

Tom read this article to me yesterday and I thought you all might get a chuckle or two out of it! I totally enjoyed the Kwaanza reference!

=============================================== Friday, January 13, 2006. Page 8.

A Land of Never-Ending Holidays
By Mark H. Teeter

At this point you're almost numb: You've been celebrating holidays for something like a month and a half and you're asking yourself (or your liver is asking you) Haven't we had enough fun yet?
No, you haven't. Obviously. The table was barely cleared after Saturday's Russian Christmas feast when your friends announced that yet another holiday, this one bafflingly called Old New Year, was looming nigh, Jan. 14. Now you're wondering aloud to anyone within earshot: Is there no end to this revelry? Am I stuck in college forever?
Let us help. The first thing you need are facts: The reason January is overwhelmed with holidays goes back to a historical difference between the Eastern and Western church calendars (Julian vs. Gregorian) that created a 14-day "lag time" in the observance of certain holidays here -- so unlike the familiar U.S. version, Russian Orthodox Kwanzaa is celebrated on Jan. 8. Similarly, the always colorful Chinese New Year is marked differently in some parts of Russia, particularly in Khabarovsk, where this December most of the city's population "gathered by the river" to welcome the Year of the Toxic Fire Dog with toasts of bottled water as they waved traditional "fists of friendship" at their Asian neighbors upriver.
Fun is fun, but it's time to prepare your most treasured internal organs for the ordeal of the rest of January. Circle the following events on your calendar so they don't sneak up and mug your intestinal tract in a dark podezd:
United Russia Day (Jan. 15): This is traditionally observed either by small groups of intimate friends wearing bear suits (brown or white) or by large groups of youths wearing matching hats and t-shirts as they spontaneously demonstrate for or against something their leaders evidently like or don't.
Rodina Day (Jan. 19): To an outsider this may look like a simple watermelon eating contest, but to the native eye there is much more: People in imitation bear suits (white only) get together in small groups while large groups of youthful wannabes wearing matching hats and t-shirts spontaneously demonstrate for ... Oh, there is also a traditional game of throwing watermelon rinds at pictures of people darker than you and then denying you did it.
LDPR Day (Jan. 21): We know what you're thinking: Upside Down Day! And you're right, this is the festive day for people who call themselves Liberal and Democratic but hate liberals and democrats; who are ardent racists but accuse others of racism; and who can tie their own neckties but haven't learned to button up their shirts yet. Most participants claim they are intelligent and good looking. Guess what.
Yabloko-SPS Unity Day (Jan. 23): This is one of the few Russian holidays that proudly boasts a tradition of not being observed, as the high-dome celebrants can never agree on when, where, how or even if they should get together for the occasion. If that sounds like about the stupidest holiday for smart people you've ever heard of, you're getting the picture.
Mayor's Day (Jan. 26): A pull-out-the-stops celebration of Hizzoner, featuring everything from academic seminars on patronage distribution and machine politics (the social science known as luzhkovovedeniye) to elaborately uninspiring street festivals that somehow get unlimited air time on Moscow's TV Center (the channel known as luzhkovovideniye). The message is Cheer up or get outta town, ya bums -- Sincerely yours, Richard J., er, Yury M. Luzhkov.
Old Believer Groundhog Day (Feb. 2): Bringing the holiday parade to a merciful end is this one-day semi-religious festival in which a small but persistent Russian sect continues to mark Groundhog Day as they believe it was meant to be observed -- before the Americans, and especially Bill Murray, turned this traditional Siberian shaman ritual into a cheesy Hollywood parody of all that pagan animists hold dear. A great deal of independently produced alcohol is consumed (some by groundhogs) after which holidays in general and strong drink in particular are sworn off by the participants until either Felix Dzerzhinsky Truth or Consequences Day or the next Reformed Shi'ite Kwanzaa, whichever comes first.

Mark H. Teeter is opinion page editor of The Moscow Times
© Copyright 2006 The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.

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