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Old Soviet Christmas-tree Decorations
December 13, 2011 13:59

In Russia the custom of decoration of the Christmas-tree was founded in the times of Alexandra Fyodorovna who married the emperor Nicholas I in 1817. The royal family decorated festive tables with small bunches of fir branches and placed presents under the Christmas tree. Soon that royal tradition became very popular among Russian nobilities. They decorated Christmas trees like Europeans of that time - with gilded cones, paper flowers, candies and tutti-frutti. There were also some figures of angels and animals.

 After the October Revolution, Christmas shows had been hold for some time. Vladimir Lenin visited such show in 1919, in Sokolniki park, and in 1923 - shortly before his death - in the Gorki.
In 1927 Christmas shows were forbidden by the Soviet authorities within the framework of the anti-religious propaganda. 
For example, it was said in the document of 1927: "Little children are deceived that they receive their presents from Ded Moroz. Christmas shows can be considered as the start of the childen's religiousness.Ruling exploitative classes use "kind" Ded Moroz and "sweet" Christmas tree in order to turn working class into the dutiful servants of the capitalism"
But Soviet people needed the holiday, so it was decided to decline such left-wing extremes. In 1935 the "Pravda" newspaper published an official letter, where it was said: "It is necessary to put an end to the mistaken blame of the Christmas shows. We call on to make such shows for the Soviet children all around the country."
Christmas shows revived and so the Soviet industry began making Christmas-tree decorations. Then the first batch of balls with portraits of Lenin, Stalin and members of the Politburo was issued. But these toys soon were phased out, as the phrase "to hang Lenin on the tree" sounded rather ambiguous...

Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden) officially became Ded Moroz's granddaughter and assistant at the Christmas show in the Kolonny Hall in 1937. Earlier Snegurochka was a character of folk tales and Rimsky-Korsakov's opera and had nothing to do with New Year. Of course, Ded Moroz and Snegurochka became the Christmas-tree decorations at once. On the following picture you can see such toys dated the second half of the 1930s. 

And there is an example of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka of the 1960s. They were usually put at the foot of the Christmas tree. 

The years of the Great Patriotic War were very hard, and no wonder that the country's industry (including decorations industry) switched over to the military way. But people still found methods for making hand-made Christmas toys to make the life a little better. They made them from pasteboard, cartonage, wire, straw and glass tube.

 The post-war period was characterized by the rapid development of the decorations industry. Chritmas decorations became very various and imaginative. Artists weren't as much interested in common Christmas balls as in different figures and dolls.

 Christmas decorations followed some events of Russian social and cultural life. For example, several series of figures with clothespegs were made for the Alexander Pushkin's anniversary. They were characters from his popular fairy-tales.  

Toys of vegetables and fruits were popular for some time, supporting the fast development of the Soviet rural economy.

After release of the film "Karnavalnaya Noch" (The Carnival Night) by Eldar Ryazanov, its main symbol, the clock with hands stood at five minutes to twelve, became the most popular decoration among Soviet people.


Unfortunately, after the 1980s individualism in production of the Christmas decorations gave place to mass forming. 
Christmas toys became more beautiful but less interesting. Now any Russian citizen can but thousands of various Christmas decorations from all corners of the world. But many Russian people still keep their old Soviet toys and hang them on the tree every year. Because these small glass craftworks save something very important - a piece of our childhood.

Sources and Images: Statehistory Russianelka  Igrushka Rus-obr Copypast Christmas-tree decorations from the collection of this artcile's author (with "Russia-IC" mark)

Julia Alieva

Author: Julia Alieva

Tags: Russian Winter New Year Christmas Christmas tree Russian history 

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