Rus Articles Journal

Three centuries of the Russian fir-tree. Part 2

the Beginning

By the end of the XIX century a fir-tree becomes an everyday occurrence in Russia... Preparation of fir-trees began one week prior to Christmas. For foresters and peasants from suburban villages their sale became one of seasonal earnings.

trees in the most populous places Were on sale: at Gostiny dvor, on squares, the markets. Fir-trees were offered for every taste: small, decorated with artificial flowers, fir-trees - giants who it is proud rose in all the natural beauty, and the artificial Christmas trees never seeing the woods - crumbs which unnaturally bright greens at once were evident. Also many benches - green, dairy and even meat where trees exposed at an entrance, often already put on crosspieces traded in fir-trees.

In emergence of a fir-tree in the house for children any more. Children with pleasure walked in “woods“ of fir-tree markets; watched how the fir-tree was brought in the house; saw how it which did not thaw yet lay in an outer entrance hall (“only after a night service it will be let in“) or in the room on a floor, getting warm in house heat; felt how it began to radiate a coniferous and pitch smell.

From all city, and sometimes and from other cities on house fir-trees the family, cousins and brothers gathered. Adults thought out and bought gifts, organized “fir-tree fun“, played a piano, children danced. Seniors prepared for holidays, composing and putting plays “under Hoffman and Andersen“ from life of Christmas tree decorations. Special popularity these years was gained by the “tableau vivant“ representing “mute“ performances of popular axiomatic poems. Marina Tsvetaeva writes:

“Having told

this word (“tableau vivant“), I gave an era. It was blossoming of the ninetieth years, the near eve of the Fifth. . The motionless group of living people painted Bengalese - green and crimson - a flame. The group does not breathe, smiles stiffened, the flame trembles, burns down... Curtain“.

the device charitable“ is widely adopted fir-trees for at this time the poor“ in people`s houses, children`s shelters. Both any societies, and certain philanthropists organized them.

Having turned into the main component of winter holidays, the fir-tree, thus, entered festive life as one of its necessary components. L. N. Gumilyov, with bitterness saying that he had not such what it has to be childhood, noticed:“ I wanted simple: that there was a father that in the world were a fir-tree, Columbus, hunting dogs, Rublyov, Lermontov“. The fir-tree began to be perceived as one of necessary elements of the normal childhood.

Especially pressing tonality in literature and journalism the image of a fir-tree gets

in the years of World War I: the fir-tree becomes the symbol connecting by hidden communication temporarily or forever the separated members of families. Photos in which the soldiers celebrating Christmas with the fir-tree established in a dugout or an entrenchment are photographed were regularly published in the illustrated weeklies since 1915. But there was also another: war with Germany, having reminded of the German origin of custom of a Christmas tree, unexpectedly provoked, apparently, forever the ceased “anti-fir-tree“ moods which were shown as in sharp performances against a fir-tree in the press, and in bans on the fir-tree device in establishments. However, these actions had no essential results: the fir-tree already too strongly took roots by this time on the Russian soil.

fir-tree History after October, 1917

Occurs opinion that the Soviet power forbade a fir-tree at once after October revolution. However it not so. After seizure of power Bolsheviks did not encroach on a fir-tree. In 1918 M. Gorky and A. N. Benois prepared and published the magnificent gift book for children “Fir-tree“ issued by remarkable artists in Petrograd publishing house “Parus“. It included M. Gorky, K. I. Chukovsky, V. F. Khodasevich, A. N. Tolstoy, V. Ya. Bryusov, S. Chyorny`s works, etc. On a cover of the book drawing of the decorated Christmas tree around which in a cheerful round dance are turned Father Frost and forest wild beasts is placed. On a tree top the six-pointed Star of Bethlehem brightly shines.

no special measures directed to a fir-tree ban really were undertaken by

In the first years after revolution and if it also became an extraordinary rarity at this time, then external circumstances which “brought down all and confused“ as Mikhail Bulgakov in the novel “White Guard“ writes about it were the reason for that, narrating about events of the eve 1919:“ From year to year, how many Turbin remembered themselves, icon lamps were lit at them on the twenty fourth of December in twilight, and in the evening split-up, warm fires lit in a drawing room green fir-tree branches. But now the artful bullet wound, the snoring typhus brought down everything and confused“.

However, despite material and household difficulties, in the families resisting chaos of external life, a fir-tree nevertheless was tried to be installed and treated her with a bigger care, even reverence, than in a peace time as it was the only unsteady communication with last, steady life. Korney Chukovsky`s diary contains the tremendous record made by it for Christmas of 1920:“ Children arranged an amazing thing, it appears, they within a month saved bread pieces which gave them [in] a gymnasium, dried them - and here, having made white funtik with the pasted pictures, filled these funtik crackers and spread out them under a fir-tree - as gifts to parents! Children who prepare for Christmas a surprise for the father and mother! Is not enough still that they convinced us that all this put Santa - Claus! Next year I will expose at a bed of stockings!“

In the first years after Civil war in the cities, as before, many fir-trees still were on sale, but the population lived in misery and very few people were able to afford to buy even the smallest tree. The men from suburban villages bringing to the city of a fir-tree lost prechristmas earnings. On December 25, 1924 Korney Chukovsky writes down:“ The day before yesterday there were I from Murkaya to Cola - hours at 11 in the morning and was struck: how many fir-trees! At every turn the most deserted streets are costed by the cart up to the top filled by various fir-trees - and near a cart the sad man who is hopelessly looking at rare passersby. I got to talking with one. Speaks: “Though on salt to earn, we do not dream of kerosene! At anybody not a stiver; oil was not seen since that Christmas...“ The only mining industry - fir-trees. Filled up with fir-trees all Leningrad, bate down the price to 15 kopeks. And I noticed that fir-trees mainly small buy, proletarian - to put on a table“.

But gradually life it was adjusted, and the fir-tree, appear, won again the rights. However everything was not so simply.

the First disturbing call sounded already on November 16, in three weeks after October revolution when for discussion of the Soviet government the question of calendar reform was raised. Up to October revolution Russia still continued to live according to a Julian calendar while the majority of the European countries passed to the Gregorian calendar accepted by the father Grigory XIII in 1582 long ago. Need of carrying out calendar reform, transition to new style was felt since the 18th century. Already at Peter I in the international relations and in scientific correspondence Russia was forced to use the Gregorian calendar while within the country life within two centuries proceeded on old style. This circumstance generated many inconveniences. Especially sharply the requirement of introduction of computation of time, uniform with Europe, was felt in diplomatic and commercial practice. However the attempts made in the 19th century to carry out calendar reform failed: it was counteracted both the government, and the orthodox church, every time considering introduction of a new calendar as “untimely“. After revolution the question of “inopportuneness“ of reform disappeared by itself, and on January 24, 1918 the Council of People`s Commissars adopted the Decree about introduction in the Russian republic of the Western European calendar. The decree signed by Lenin was published next day.

As the difference between old and new style made 13 days by this time, as a result of reform the Russian Christmas was displaced since December 25 for January 7, and New year - since January 1 on 14 - e. And though neither in the decree, nor in other documents of this time on cancellation of a holiday of Christmas proceeding from the Soviet government it was not told nor words, nevertheless, violation of a calendar was perceived as life withdrawal pains from it by the orthodox holidays which are traditionally connected with certain dates. What will be merry Christmas and a fir-tree after entry of calendar reform into life while it was unclear.


A in 1922 carried out campaign for transformation of a holiday of Christmas on “Komsomol Christmas“, or otherwise in “komsvyatka“. Komsomol cells had to organize celebration “komsvyatok“ in the first day of Christmas, that is on December 25 which was declared by the day off. Actions began reading the reports and speeches exposing “economic roots“ of Christmas holidays. Then there were performances and performances, political satires, “tableau vivant“. For the second day of a holiday street processions were organized, on the third - masquerades and the fir-tree which received the name “Komsomol fir-tree“ got a job in clubs. Participants of fir-tree carnivals (generally from Komsomol members - propagandists) ryaditsya in the most unimaginable satirical suits: The Entente, Kolchak, Denikin, a fist, a nepman, in pagan gods and even in a Christmas goose and a pig. Torchlight processions and burning of “divine images“ (icons) were carried out.

However so favorable relation of the Soviet power to a fir-tree proceeded not for long. New changes became notable already by the end of 1924 when “The red newspaper“ with satisfaction reported:“ ... this year it is noticeable that Christmas prejudices almost stopped. On markets fir-trees are almost not visible - there are unconscious people a little“. Gradually finished the existence and a holiday of “Komsomol Christmas“. It was scarified in the press as not played an essential role in antireligious promotion. And since 1925 planned fight against religion and against orthodox holidays which result was a final cancellation of Christmas in 1929 began. Day of Christmas turned into the usual working day. Together with Christmas also the fir-tree, already strongly accrete with it was cancelled. The fir-tree which the orthodox church once opposed began to be called “popovsky“ custom now.

these critical years in destiny of a fir-tree it seemed to

B that to it the end came. In the New Year`s Eve evenings the streets were walked by persons on duty and peered into windows of apartments: whether shine where - nibud fires of fir-trees. At schools as fight merry Christmas and a fir-tree for New year began to spend “anti-Christmas evenings“ on which dramatized deriding priests and church of a playlet, sang antireligious satirical couplets, like “Din - Baume, ding - Baume, more we will not go to church“. Ceased to arrange fir-trees and in kindergartens.

And still completely did not manage to eradicate the fallen in love custom: the fir-tree “went underground“. As the writer I. Tokmakova, in families, faithful to pre-revolutionary traditions remembers, she continued to be arranged. Did it carefully. With a fir-tree the janitor who before Christmas went out of town in the wood with a huge bag usually provided, cut down a tree, chopped it in half and pushed in a bag. Houses he imposed popular prints on a rough trunk, and the fir-tree “became tselenky and harmonous again“.

“An end to the wrong condemnation of a fir-tree“ was put to

on an end of 1935. On December 28 the small note signed by the candidate for members of the politburo of the Central Committee of All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) P. P. Postyshev was published in the Pravda newspaper: “Let`s organize by new year to children a good fir-tree!“ . The author in declarative tone called Komsomol members and “pionerrabotnik“ quickly to arrange on New Year`s Eve collective fir-trees for children.


“Proposal of comrade Postyshev“ it was taken into consideration immediately, and on December 31 on counters of shops, according to messages in the press, “the expanded range of Christmas-tree decorations“ already appeared. The cafe, restaurants and large factory dining rooms prepared for the organization of fir-trees in the rooms again.


So, within four days (including day of publication of article of Postyshev) revived pre-revolutionary festive custom.

the Soviet fir-tree in the second half of the XX century

at the end of 1935 the fir-tree was not so much revived by

how many it is turned into the new holiday which received the simple and accurate formulation:“ New Year tree - a holiday of the joyful and happy childhood in our country“. The device of New Year trees for children of staff of institutions and the industrial enterprises becomes obligatory. Now a fir-tree tree - necessary accessory not only the Soviet holiday of New year, but also the Soviet life in general. Organized the holiday “fir-tree commission“ which trade-union activists usually entered: they developed the program, delivered a fir-tree, provided with Father Frost, prepared gifts. The choice of gifts and decision-making was the most difficult, “what gift to make to which of children so that not to leave a limit and at the same time that all were happy“. For each child the special gift prepared that left subsequently practice of the Soviet fir-trees on which equality of all children was supposed.

In holidays the image of a fir-tree literally did not descend from pages of newspapers and magazines.“ Stalin thinking of us“ meeting New year in the Kremlin as if invisibly was present at each New Year`s holiday.

As until the end of 1935 were condemned by

and even the people arranging fir-trees so in the press were pursued now the “bureaucrats“ preventing “people to have fun are derided“.

Communication of a fir-tree was merry Christmas buried by

in oblivion. The Christmas tree turned into attribute of a public holiday of New year, one of three (along with October and the May Day) the main Soviet holidays. The eight-pointed Star of Bethlehem on a top of “a Christmas tree“ was replaced now by five-pointed - same, as on the Kremlin towers.

the Aspiration to ideologize the revived holiday becomes every day more and more frankly. Thousands of Christmas-tree decorations hung on the beauty sparkling in beams of searchlights to the fir-tree established in the House of the unions with it is working - country communistic symbolics.

there Passed some more years, and on January 1, 1947 again became “red day of a calendar“, that is non-working, and the fir-tree in the House of the unions acquired the official status of “the main fir-tree of the country“. In 1954 the New Year tree acquired “the right for an entrance“ to the hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace Of St. George - it served two thousand children a year. For the first time the Kremlin opened before the lucky who received New Year`s invitations. For young leaders of production, students of capital higher education institutions, students of military educational institutions, pupils of the tenth classes, Komsomol workers in the same Georgiyevsky the hall New Year`s masquerades were arranged.

After “thaw“ with the advent of the Kremlin Palace of Congresses the main children`s holiday of the country moved there. But by the beginning 70 - x years many Muscovites and residents of other cities were not torn to “the main fir-trees“ at all.

I still the most desired for us not public, but house fir-trees for which gather the family. On these house holidays people forget about that official role which was played by a fir-tree, and celebrate it as family celebration, by the traditions which were established in a family.

Sentimental and nostalgic feelings which the fir-tree caused and continues to cause broke in literature many times in the form of emotional recognitions, as in the famous song of 1966 of Bulat Okudzhava “Farewell to a New Year tree“: the Fir-tree washing

of of
, the Fir-tree - the leaving deer,
you, likely, made Vain attempts:
of the Woman of that ostorozhnaya the shadow
In your needles got lost! the Fir-tree washing
, the Fir-tree as if Saviour - on - blood,
your silhouette remote,
As if a trace of the surprised love,
Flashed, not satisfied.

was Forgotten about the aversion for a fir-tree by orthodox church. Now green trees stand not only in temples during Christmas church service, but also in houses of clergymen.

Instead of the conclusion

In 1991 in Russia began to celebrate Christmas again. On January 7 it was declared by the day off.“ And, as always at this time, - the Nevskoye Vremya newspaper wrote at the end of December, 1993, - fir-trees - not just New Year`s, already Christmas, without red stars burn on the main street of St. Petersburg“.

throughout three centuries the fir-tree honestly carried out the functions assigned to it, and even violent ideologization did not prevent it to remain in an informal house situation all favourite and annually desired, is passionate also long before New year the expected Fir-tree. Such we remember it. Such our children will remember it. Let`s hope, and grandsons will go around the decorated, shining tree and to sing the simple song composed nearly hundred years ago.