When Christmas was reinstated in Russia as an official winter holiday, it never regained its erstwhile festivity and popularity
The tradition to celebrate Christmas in Russia was broken after the Great October Revolution. Christmas is still considered a minor winter holiday in Russia, giving way to grand New Year celebrations. Christmas was persecuted in Russia as a religious vestige. The New Year was much luckier: the first New Year tree appeared in the Soviet Union in 1936. The main figure of the winter holiday, Father Frost (the Russian Santa Claus), appeared at that time too.
The image of a kind, fairy old man was obviously borrowed from the Western culture. The Soviet Santa Claus, however, has a granddaughter, known as Snegurochka (Snow Girl). The character was taken from the fairytale written by the Russian writer Alexander Ostrovsky.
When Christmas was reinstated in Russia as an official winter holiday, it never regained its erstwhile festivity and popularity. The majority of Russians feel nostalgic about their Soviet past. Russian people still prefer to celebrate the New Year. Patriarch Aleksi II could not become a substitute for Father Frost; the divine service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral has not become as popular as the New Year celebrations in the Kremlin.
Father Frost and Snegurochka appeared during the Stalin's era, but they managed to become something purely Russian – they are the two most popular winter characters in Russia nationwide.
Christmas is obviously the central of all holidays in the West. Europeans and Americans think about nothing but Christmas sales in December. However, Western Christmas traditions are changing nowadays for political reasons first and foremost. A curious incident has recently happened in the US city of Denver. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper decided to decorate the City and County Building with “Happy Holidays” sign instead of the traditional “Merry Christmas” lighted phrase. The mayor believed that the neutral display of the Christmas wishes will be a token of respect to atheists, Jews and Muslims. Christian activists showered the mayor with protests and he had to reverse his decision.
Catholics and Jews are fighting over the Chrismukkah holiday in New York. The holiday unites Christian Christmas and the Jewish Chanukah. The idea to unite the two holidays sprang from businessman Ron Gompertz and his wife Michelle. They were inspired with the TV series “The Orange County,” in which the family of the main character celebrated the fictitious Jewish-Christian holiday.
Christmas problems appeared on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean too – in England. The Anglican Church had big ideas about one of the most important symbols of the holiday – the Three Wise Men. Members of the special committee of the Anglican Church decided not to mention the Three Wise Men in the new editing of the prayer book. Modern English theologians are not sure if those men were actually men.
Members of the House of Lords of the British Parliament thought in 2001 if they could make Santa Claus a woman. The discussion was caused with a scandal, when personnel agencies protested against commercial ads in supermarkets, which invited men to work as Santa Clauses. According to the law about the sexual discrimination, a person's sex is not considered a job criterion. Spokespeople for personnel agencies said that the above-mentioned advertising in supermarkets was demeaning to women. To crown it all, Santa Clause job ads were considered illegal too. Bruce Robinson, the owner of the supermarket chain, suggested a slight change to the jobs ads to welcome women too. However, female candidacies for Santa Claus's position were supposed to be tubby, big and muscular. In addition, they were supposed to have a low bass voice. Needless to say that the fighters for women's rights were even more infuriated with such a suggestion. The dispute ended, when the House of Lords ruled that the Santa Claus job was solely a male prerogative.
Christmas brings surprises every year. Rotary International, a public organization of Great Britain, issued special instructions for Santa Clauses in 2002. The instructions regulated Santa's interaction with children to prevent any pedophilia-related scandals. Santa is not allowed to put children on his lap, and he is not supposed to let little children kiss him on a cheek. A modern Santa Clause can only blow kisses with the wind and shake children's hands.
American film-makers were obviously tired of the sickly-sweet image of Santa. Terry Zwigoff's movie called “Bad Santa” presented a whole new look at Christmas holidays. The movie is about a man, who puts on Santa's clothes every Christmas Eve to rob supermarkets. The man encounters an eight-year-old boy, who takes him for the real Santa, and the boy eventually changes the inveterate criminal.
It is not ruled out that Santa Claus will change his sex, color of the skin and sexual orientation. Western wise politicians are ready to take all religious aspects away from Christmas not to hurt Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and atheists. All Christmas characters might vanish from our lives in the future, but the Christmas tree, the politically correct tree, will most likely stay - green is the color of Islam.
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