NEW YEAR: SNOWMAID APPEARED ONLY IN SOVIET TIMES

Exhibition of old New Year decoration
NEW YEAR: SNOWMAID APPEARED ONLY IN SOVIET TIMES

(click the images to enlarge them)

Christmas ornaments and other New Year items which were used in the XX century were on display
at the exhibition Mint Candies of Childhood  which  opened  on St. Nicholas Day (December 19) in
the One Street Museum located in Andriyivsky Uzviz.  Visitors  could learn how people decorated
Christmas trees one hundred years ago. The most  popular  decorations at that time were real
apples, "golden" nuts, spicy cakes and candies. The  first local ornaments were home made and
often were plaster casts of the same vegetables, fruits and mushrooms.

The most valuable items of the exhibition were the Christmas decorations made in Kyiv in early XX
century. At that time manufactured Christmas ornaments were  very rare in the Russian empire
and those who wanted to add to the  traditional Christmas apples, pears, nuts and candies had to
make the ornaments themselves.

Interestingly, at that time in Kyiv there was a local tradition of organizing a New year celebration
for children. That event had a name "Living Tree". Instead of traditional Christmas tree they built
a pyramid and children climbed onto its steps  with  branches in their hands. They were singing
songs and reciting poems to other children. In the process of getting ready for the exhibition the
scenario was found with the texts of songs  and poems, including a popular children's song "Small
Fir Tree Was Born in the Forest". Also, there were instructions how the "Living Tree" festivity was
supposed to be held.

• Prices for rarities of the last century •
There are very few collectors of Christmas decorations in Ukraine, that is why prices are not very high. At the flee market one can buy rather cheap whole boxes of old New Year decorations. Unlike in the West where collecting Christmas decorations is very popular. They publish different catalogues of Christmas ornaments in which they tell the history of each piece and approximate price.

NEW YEAR: SNOWMAID APPEARED ONLY IN SOVIET TIMES NEW YEAR: SNOWMAID APPEARED ONLY IN SOVIET TIMES

• Items with interesting history •
One elderly lady brought the piece that she got for the New Year of 1942 when she was displaced to Tashkent. Also, she had a Santa Claus brought from Germany in 1944. There were pieces of German newspapers stuck to the bottom of the boots.
By the way, Germany is the birthplace of the most popular Christmas decoration - glass balls. The first balls appeared there in the middle of the XIX century. Also, German craftsmen designed ornaments made of imprinted cardboard. Similar decorations were produced locally as well but their quality was, unfortunately, much lower. German pieces were refined and beautiful. But the value of each piece is defined not only because of its artistic value.
Ornaments for New Year trees produced in the USSR in 1930-1940s are unimpressive. They are flowers, stars, baskets made of metal strings. But there are very few of them left, that is why they are very valuable.

NEW YEAR: SNOWMAID APPEARED ONLY IN SOVIET TIMES NEW YEAR: SNOWMAID APPEARED ONLY IN SOVIET TIMES


• Most unusual exhibits •
The most unusual were the balls made of burnt electrical bulbs during the first years after WWII. All metal parts were taken off and the top part was cut off. As a result, there was a ball with the cut top. Then it was colored and painted with flowers or animals.
Also, very amazing were the exhibits from the period of Soviet-Chinese friendship. Besides popular raincoats, thermoses, towels, the Chinese started supplying New Year decorations and even postcards. At first glance they look like normal glass Grandpas Frost and Snowmaids but the faces are typical Chinese. The most impressive were decorations in the image of pioneers (member of young communists organization - tr.) - boys with red ties and dressed in the uniform of the "cultural revolution" period.

The tradition to celebrate the New Year with Grandpa Frost and Snowmaid was finally established in the USSR in the period of Stalinism - late 1930s. By the way, nowhere in the world there is a character of Snowmaid (granddaughter of Grandpa Frost - tr.). First Snowmaid appeared in the well known opera with the same name by the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov. But the image became really popular in the Soviet times.

As for the tradition of decorating branches of fir tree for New Year, lighting it with candles, giving out presents, it has existed since pagan times. Later the tradition was borrowed by the Christian culture. Also, the idea to start New Year on January 1 was taken from the Romans.
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More than seventy percent of the exhibition, hundreds of items, were from the ArtUkraine.com private collection, including the rare Christmas postcards printed by Ukrainian diaspora in Czechoslovakia, Germany, France in 1920-1930s and a large collection of decorations used in the Soviet Ukraine over the past 80 years.
Part of the collection is for sale.
Please contact: ArtUkraine@voliacable.com



May 24, 2004

 
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