Today is Christmas Day in Russia.  At least, according to the Russian Orthodox Church which still determines the dates of its festivals according to the Gregorian calendar, on which today is the 25th December, not the 7th January.  To be honest, Christmas is really not a big thing here.  It was banished for 70 years under the Soviet regime, and only practiced secretly by the most faithful believers.  The secular New Year holiday, which lasts from 1st – 7th January is the important festival for most Russians.  Gifts are mostly exchanged on New Year’s Eve, and the motifs of western Christmas (Santa Claus, decorated trees, Christmas music) emerge during the build-up to New Year (which of course coincides with our Western Christmas).

Of course the legalisation and resurgence of the Christian faith does mean that Christmas is more widely and openly celebrated now, but usually in people’s homes or in churches, not with parties and big outdoors events.  Perhaps Christmas here in Russia is something more like the original Christians might have hoped for – a spiritual rather than a commercial holiday, a time of reflection and prayer rather than indulgence.

I have had a restful week.  The school did require me to be available for City Camp but this was only for an hour and a half for three days of the week – sadly, spread across the week so I could not get four or five days together which I could use for a trip somewhere else.  I was in charge of four of the nine participants of City Camp for an hour and a half, in theory the best four students who might benefit from a native speaker but in practice a wide range of ages and abilities.  They were fun kids though and I had a good time with them.  I’m not sure they learned a good deal.

I did a little bit of exploring as I took a leisurely walk back home each day.  The snow has been melting making walking a little treacherous at times but I have still managed to avoid falling over.  The last couple of days have been beset by fog, at its worst I could not see the building opposite mine.

I finally went to the big blue “sail” buildings that I could see from my first flat, I’m not sure if they are apartment or office buildings but they are very beautiful.  This is also as close as you can get to the Volga on this side of the Voroshilovskiy gap.  I also found out where the trams go, there is a big tramway yard presumably for storage and repairs, the streets outside are made of very uneven cobbles leading me to think this might be one of the older parts of town.

It is back to work on Monday, the same routine now through until summer.  A few more weeks of winter to get through first, perhaps the warmer weather will bring out new aspects of the city for me to discover?


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