In which Russian Grandfather Frost crosses the hearth to the tree and bumps straight into British Father Christmas backing out of the fireplace. Together they share a mince pie, a large brandy and a shot of vodka with a slice of pickled fish and discuss mutual concerns, such as the delicate art of eating without dipping one’s cloak sleeves or beard in the borsch.
Welcome to a sparkly brand new year, and welcome to my world, where the Russian version of Father Christmas and Santa himself cross paths every year as the Little One gets bigger and asks more questions. This year we spent the holiday season back in London, and consequently had to write to Father Christmas to explain that we wouldn’t be in Moscow as usual. In the letter there was a tiny drawing of an apartment in Moscow, crossed out in red crayon, and a wobbly sketch of a flat in London with a big, fat tick next to it. That should explain things clearly, we agreed, and posted the letter into my handbag.
Building family traditions that successfully coexist with wider cultural rituals is part of the challenge of life, and can be even more complicated (and expensive) for a multi-cultural family. In our house, British Father Christmas turns up during the night on the 24th of December, wherever we are (assuming we have been good of course). The Russian equivalent, Ded Maroz (Grandfather Frost) arrives later, on the 31st, bringing the presents that appear beneath the tree and ushering in the New Year. One of the sharp zaps of culture shock for me each year in Moscow is the silent passing of the 25th December. However much Christmas we manage to make in our home, the rest of Russia is busy going about a very ordinary business day, with minimal decoration or fuss. Meanwhile, back in England, the Little One’s Russian father goes out (despite warnings) to buy bread and milk on the 25th of December. Ho ho ho!
Like a deck of cards sifting through our fingers, we shuffle the traditions, symbols and stories of one culture into those of another. How will the game play out this year?
I hope it plays out well for you. I wish you enough challenge, enough peace, and enough of whatever you need. Happy New Year!