The last few months of the year are slammed back to back with holidays. In October, you’re decorating your house with jack ‘o’ lanterns and scrambling together a last-minute costume. Before you know it, November blows through the door, sweeping up the spooky cotton cobwebs in exchange for autumn leaves. With Christmas quickly approaching, New Year feels like a footnote to the Holiday season.
Unless you’re Russian.
“For us (Russians) New Years’ has always been the biggest holiday of the year,” Maks Zhdanov said.
Although Maks, the Chief Financial Officer, and Aleks Zhandov, Head Distiller. lived in the United States most of their lives, it didn’t keep their family from celebrating New Year’s as they would have in Moscow. 3BR was inspired by Zhdanov’s brother’s family lineage; their spirits are based on a split-pea recipe their grandfather, Oleg Pichenikin, concocted during a period of alcohol prohibition under the Soviet Union.
“Imagine everything in Russia being closed for two weeks,” said Aleks Zhdanov. “Everyone is partying for two weeks and...are real drunk.”
Russians party longer and harder for New Years’ than the rest of the western world, celebrating in Moscow’s Red Square as the Spasskaya Tower rings in the new year. Folks at home tuning into RTV to catch President Putin’s annual New Year’s address, reflecting back on the triumphs of the past year and what’s to come in the future.
A long time ago, the old Russian New Year was celebrated on March 22, signifying the end of winter and the coming of spring. Later, it became March 1 after Christianity arrived, but then, all religious celebrations were banned by the Soviet Union in 1929.
A more state friendly New Year’s celebration officially came back on January 1, 1945. Today, Russians celebrate New Years’ on this day, as well as Orthodox New Years’ on the 14th, with Orthodox Christmas in between on the 7th. If Russian New Year’s looks like Christmas at first glance, that’s because it is--sort of like Christmas’s secular cousin.
“From a young age, we’ve always had the Russian child’s [New Year’s] experience,” Maks Zhdanov said. “Our parents told us Santa Claus isn’t real, but Ded Moroz is.”
According to Alek’s, their parents told them Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, was just more logical than Santa. For one, he only gives presents to Russian children--much more manageable than the whole world. And forget that fabled nonsense of a jolly large man in a red coat riding a sleigh led by flying reindeer. Ded Moroz is a jolly large man in a blue coat riding a sleigh led by three magic horses. Did I mention the magic ice staff? Ded Moroz has a magic ice staff.
“I’m pretty sure I told someone at some point that Santa wasn’t real, but Ded Moroz was,” Aleks said.
Aleks recounted a time when, to really sell the fantasy, his parents would set up gifts in the room he shared with his brother with the window open. Then, their parents would drum up excitement, anxiously ushering the brothers into their rooms so they can see what Ded Moroz left for them.
“Our parents always stressed gift-giving,” Aleks said. “[My brother and I] went to the dollar store to get presents for everyone when we were children.”
Anyone in the States who celebrates Christmas is familiar with the tradition of gift-giving. Russians even put up and decorate “New Year’s Tree” every year (and leave them up long after holiday festivities are over). Aleks and Maks noted since New Year’s traditions were created at a time where people in Russia were impoverished due to their economic dependency on the communist regime, the generosity of gift-giving resonates deeper.
Generosity is especially important if you’re hosting the New Year’s party in your home. It’s a tradition for the host to treat everyone. Imagine, instead of family members bringing their own dishes to create a massive Thanksgiving feast, it’s up to the host to provide the meal for everyone.
“The other thing about any Russian holiday--there is so much food,” Aleks Zhdanov said. “You’re really trying to be the super host--you want to wow them every year.”
During this time of year, Russians have a saying; ‘As you meet the New Year, so will you spend it’. This means wiping the slate clean; return your debts, don’t leave behind anything to regret. This year instead of anxiously waiting for January 1st to shed the old you, do as the Russians do: put your best foot forward now and walk into the New Year with momentum.