Dec 1, 2010
Russian New Year: My squirrel costume
New Year celebration is a big deal in Russia, or at least it was when I was little. Imagine Christmas, New Year’s and Halloween are all wrapped up in one awesome holiday. Not only you get a real tree to decorate, have presents under it, huge feast and many houseguests, a bag of candy at school, but also to wear a costume!
Yes, New Year’s is definitely the time where childhood dreams are born. Instead of Santa Clause, an old man named Grandpa Frost (Ded Moroz) and his granddaughter Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) would come to schools and kindergartens with sacks of gifts and light the tree. Not on fire, obviously (Soviet childhood was not that traumatic). We used to have a big morning party at school, where we could wear costumes and were given big bags of various candy. Now the bags were awesome. Imagine a Siberian kid who waited the whole year for this one day to receive a bag with 1 or maybe more tangerines in it! I'm sure that's not the case anymore, but the first time I had a banana it was 2 inches long and was green and I love it. The smell of chocolate and tangerines is unforgettable, and I will forever associate it with holidays.
The bags of candy would be half-eaten by the time we even left the school. Fierce bartering for various types of candies would ensue and kids would try to score their favorites from others.
The costumes themselves were quite modest in my day compared to what is available to the kids in Russia now. Most of them were homemade and there were very few choices of what we were allowed to dress as. Whatever it was – it had to be wholesome. Girls were usually squirrels, foxes, snowflakes, etc. Boys would be bunnies, little bears, etc. My mom knitted this two piece skirt and jacket brown outfit (that I actually wore to music school), and I was a squirrel for a couple of years. I don’t remember if it involved brown squirrel ears and a tail, although I think the costume was pretty much just an outfit. I must say as a kid, I was always jealous of kids who’s costumes involved sequins. Anything sparkly – and I was drooling over it. I wanted to be a snowflake. A princess.Anything that called for anything sparkly. Anything but a stupid brown squirrel.
- This, sadly, is not what my costume looked like.
My mom finally succumbed to my pleas and made me a new costume. Out of her wedding dress. Instead of my old brown knitted outfit I now had a dress, made from a gorgeous silvery-white silk, with see-through sleeves and white silk flowers. It’s kind of sad that the dress that she wore to marry a man who made my life hell for 3 years, still ingrained in my memory as one of the most loving things she did for me. I wish I had any pictures, but I remember that being an amazingly special New Years.
Why a brown costume? Because squirrels are brown, silly.