A Mischief Of Magpies

If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and a Mischief of Magpies would be as small as a pea.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Years for Old

<Preamble> Like my fellow new mischief-maker Paul - see January 9 - I've found myself wondering what my first post should be about, now that I've been invited to join this select band. Much metaphorical clearing of throats has occurred, whilst I try and find a distinctive voice. Then again, I must have been invited for a reason (he says, gliding gracefully over this posting from a while ago...), and why change a winning familiar formula? So my initial post deals with one of my many obsessions.</Preamble>

I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year. I'm not being wilfully unorthodox; quite the opposite, in fact. The Russian Orthodox Church remains medieval in many respects, just look at its attitude to women, for example. Another way in which this manifests itself is the continued refusal to recognise the Julian calendar. Rumours that this is linked to a grave misogynistic mistrust of Julian's tomboy companion George remain unconfirmed. So modern-day Russians, never at a loss to come up with an excuse for a celebration, get to mark New Year on December 31, and again on January 12. Today is popularly known as Old New Year, and any culture that can come up with a concept like that deserves our appreciation.

Despite the upsurge in religious observance in Russia following the collapse of the USSR, Christmas Day is not widely celebrated there, either on December 25, notwithstanding the arrogant and patronising best efforts of the many Western missionaries to make converts, or on January 7. For the devout Orthodox Christian, Easter is a far more important occasion. So for most Russians, New Year is the time when Ded Moroz brings presents. Ded Moroz - 'Grandfather Frost' - to save you the trouble of using the Babelfish facility in the corner, is of course the analogue of Santa Claus. If I can risk flogging the magpie metaphor that little bit further, one of the shiny things glinting in the interwebs that caught my attention is this ambiguous image:

Ho, Ho, Ho

He first stood out through being one of the very few Santa figures not to be dressed in apparent corporate clothing, which is in itself a great reason to celebrate him. But looking more closely, his weary expression perfectly sums up the exhaustion the festive season can evoke, and it is all too easy to imagine his daunting tramp through the endless snowy woods - taiga, taiga, burning bright - in order just to deliver a couple of gifts that will soon be abandoned. On the other hand, he also simultaneously represents for me the value of making the effort to reinforce the ties between family and friends. The gifts are, of course, merely a token of our esteem for one another; I'll take the Old New Year as my cue to say thank you for the invitation to join, and also to wish you all health, happiness and success in whatever you turn your hand to in 2006.


At 6:35 pm, Blogger ill man said...

Welcome Ian. Excellent first post.

At 9:29 am, Blogger Paul B said...

Спасибо and С новым годом to you too, Ian. Welcome to the Mischief.


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