The Near Year tree history

The New Year, a holiday we celebrate with a peculiar feeling, is here. Today is the first in a series of leisurely winter days to spend with friends, family and loved ones. For some of us it will be a series of various feasts and joyful get-togethers, and for others long-awaited New Year's miracles and surprises, strolls along smartly decorated streets and snow-covered parks, romantic dates and side by side journeys, trips to a skating rink or downhill sledging. Passers-by will have quiet smiles on their faces, many will be in a fabulous mood, and everyone will be happy and full of joyful anticipation and expectations.

The New Year is one of the most beloved holidays in our country. Everyone is in a fabulous mood, feels joyful and happy, is eager to give others attention, tenderness and care! We are waiting for miracles ... And how can miracle happen without a Christmas tree? Christmas tree, dressed up with sparkling toys and garlands, has long been considered a symbol of Christmas and New Year. It is impossible to imagine a holiday without this forest beauty.

In Russia, the first Christmas tree appeared during the Time of Troubles (1598-1613). However, this tradition was not widely spread, Christmas trees were put in the imperial and boyar (landowners) private quarters. During the reign of Peter I, conifers were put on the eve of holidays in Moscow, in particular, in the Kremlin Sobornaya Square (Cathedral Square) and in the Gostiny Dvor. After the death of Peter I, this tradition was forgotten for a long time. The first public Christmas spruce was organized in 1852 in the building of the St. Petersburg Ekateringofsky Railway Station. Put in the railway station lounge, a huge spruce "with one side adhered to the wall, and the other -- decorated with colored pieces of paper". In short, time, public Christmas trees were put in the noblemen houses, officers and merchants assemblies, in recreation centers, theaters and other public places. Since the beginning of the 1850s, the Christmas tree festivities in Moscow Nobility Assembly lounge became annual. The tradition was discontinued during the First World War. Emperor Nicholas II forbade putting Christmas trees.

After the October Revolution, the ban was canceled, and on December 31, 1917, the first public Christmas tree was put in the Mikhailovsky Artillery School in Petrograd.

The Komsomol Central Committee mandate was issued on December 29, 1935. It recommended organizing the New Year events "merry and without tediousness, with songs and amateur performances…” Soon, the New Year holidays for children were held throughout the country.

In 1936, the People's Commissars Council issued a decree on the public celebration of the New Year and it became one of the most significant public holidays from the very beginning. The Christmas tree holiday was held in the House of the Unions Hall of Columns. Father Frost (Santa Claus in the USA and European countries) was a part of the festivities from the very beginning. Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden) appeared simultaneously with him. She was known before as a folkloric character, even in pagan mythology. In the modern times, it was recollected thanks to the play by A. Ostrovsky "The Snow Maiden" and the homonymous opera by N. Rimsky-Korsakov. The character not associated with Christmas, her appearance was a peculiar invention of the Soviet era.

In 1954, the country main New Year tree was moved to the Kremlin that was previously inaccessible to common people. Since the 1950s, even before the first man flight to the space, the theme had become one of the dominant in the New Year festive events. The actors dressed in space suites met all children before the performance started. Space rocket, in which the New Year arrived, was among stage decorations. At the very beginning, the Christmas tree was held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. A huge beautiful fir-tree was decorated. Children sang and danced in a ring around this tree, various contests were held. A playground with attractions and ice slides was equipped and decorated outside. After the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (now the State Kremlin Palace) was opened in 1961, the New Year tree moved to this building. Broadcasting was organized and detailed reports were published in the newspapers. Since then, the holiday in the Kremlin Palace has been called "the country main new Year". Moreover, since the mid-1960s, it has been held in form of a fairy-tale performance. Freshly chopped Christmas trees have been installed annually in the Kremlin Sobornaya square since December 1996.

The search for a suitable tree begins when summer is approaching to its end. Space and helicopter survey is used to the full. The spruce should be at least 80-100 years old; the branches’ amplitude is to be not less than 15 meters. It is brought inside the Kremlin territory through the Spassky Gate. After the New Year holidays, the spruce is dismantled, and its wood is used for producing souvenirs. The Kremlin New Year tree 2023 was brought from the Volokolamsk district near Moscow. The selected tree is 95 years old, 27 meters high, with a trunk diameter of 56 cm and a branch span of 10 meters.

The first Christmas tree toys were associated with Christian themes (figurines of angels, magicians, seraphs and cherubs). Candlesticks, sweets, fruits and nuts served as decorations. The top of the tree was crowned, as a rule, by an eight-pointed star (the symbol of Bethlehem star). Later, Christmas decorations from glass were brought from Germany. Russian production of glass balls and beads was established by the end of the 19th century. The history of Christmas tree decorations in Russia largely reflects the history of the country: sweets, glass balls and Bethlehem star as a topper; then paper airplanes and Red Army men with a five-pointed red star as a topper on the first Soviet spruces; further, paper snowflakes and balls of burned light bulbs on the spruces during the war years; paratroopers, astronauts and clocks "five minutes to twelve" in the 1960s; bought in huge queues and difficult-to-obtain boxes of balls from the German Democratic Republic and glass tree toppers in the 1980s.

The collection section "Musiacl Houseware" features musical stands for New Year trees.
Music album of New Year tunes digitised from music media stored in the museum repository is posted in the museum Sound Library.