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Встреча Нового Года

Many traditions and customs observed by people in Azerbaijan and in particular in Baku are influenced by various cultures and religions. In this respect, the holidays celebrating the end of a calendar year.

December 25 Christmas Non-official (but declared a day-off at some companies) Celebrated by expatriates in Azerbaijan and Catholics and Protestants)
January 1
(December 31)
New Year Eve Official Celebrated allover Azerbaijan
January 7 Orthodox Christmas Non-official Celebrated by Russian Orthodox Christians
January 13 Old New Year Non-official Celebrated allover Baku
March 20-21 Novruz Bayram (New Year celebration under the Lunar calendar) Official Celebrated allover Azerbaijan
September Romeshana Non-official Celebrated by Jews of Azerbaijan

The fact that Christmas is celebrated along with the New Year could seem strange and needs to be explained with reference to history.

Christmas Post Card (XIX c.)
Christmas Post Card (XIX c.)

In the early XIX century Azerbaijan was divided between Russian and Iran, that is the Northern Azerbaijan with Baku as the capital fell under the jurisdiction first of Russia and then of the Soviet Union that replaced the Empire.
It's a common knowledge that the Russian Empire and Russian Orthodox Church did not accept the calendar to have been changed from the Julian to Gregorian in 1582. At the moment Azerbaijan was included in the Russian Empire in 1813-1828, Russians celebrated two official holidays devoted to the old year finished and these were Christmas (December 25 under the Julian Calendar) and New Year Eve (December 31 under the Julian Calendar). After the Russian Empire transformed into the Soviet Union, the new authorities officially accepted the Gregorian Calendar again rejected by the Russian Orthodox Church. The communist government of the new empire allowed only one official holiday – New Year Eve celebrated on December 31 under the Gregorian Calendar. The traditions of celebration that were introduced by Peter The Great in XVII century were preserved due to the particular respect of Joseph Stalin to the progressive czar.
Despite being the subject to repression Russian Orthodox Christians celebrated the Christmas on. The time difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars are 13 days and thus the Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7.

In remonstration to the new order the intellectuals irrespective to their religion kept on celebrating the New Year under the Julian calendar. It fell on January 13 and was named the Old New Year.

In fact, the people of Azerbaijan, mainly Muslim, celebrate the Novruz Bayram in the twentieths of March as the New Year holiday. After Azerbaijan gained its independence in 1991 this holiday became the official national holiday (We will write about this great holiday in March).

The Romeshana New Year has been celebrated by the Jewish community of Azerbaijan throughout its entire history and haven't suffered sufficient changes during the last millenium.

The Gregorian Christmas is a relatively new or, rather, forgotten holiday for Azerbaijan. In the late XIX century this holiday was celebrated by foreign industrials and expatriates contributing to the first Azerbaijan oil development. There was a Catholic cathedral (exploded in the 30s along with the Orthodox Church by the communists) and an extensive German community in Baku (mostly deported after the World War started) . The Catholic and Protestant Christmas returned to Baku in 90s when the Caspian Sea oilfields began to be developed and foreign specialists and businessmen flow in the country. December 25 Christmas is not an official holiday but many foreign and joint stock companies declare it to be a day-off. Besides, this holiday is celebrated by a small number of Protestants mostly converted due to the activity of Protestant churches after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The interesting fact is that the fire-worshipping ancestors of today's Azeris celebrated the holiday of Mitra – the god and angel of justice - on December 25.

Catholic cathedral
Catholic cathedral in Baku (1909)

Only two of the above holidays are celebrates nation-wide and they are New Year and Novruz Bayram.

New Year Post Card
New Year Post Card (1989)

NEW YEAR POST CARD (1983) The New Year celebration is a family holiday although often held together with friends. Traditionally a Christmas-tree is decorated in a house at approach of December 31 which is removed only after the Old New Year passes (13th of January). A necessary attribute of celebrations are Ded Moroz (Russian) or Shakhta Babah (Azerbaijani) - both of them being a character like Western Santa Klaus - and his granddaughter Snegurochka (no English equivalent). They come on the New Year's Eve, give handsels to children and arrange the party. As a rule, family members and friends gather together on December 31 eve. Right before the midnight they give a toast to the yester-year. At midnight after the twelfth clock strike another toast is given to the incoming New Year. Usually they drink a glass of sparkling wine all types of which bakunians call Champaign, although the table is abundant with many kinds of other drinks.

The Old New Year celebrations are held quiet and is rather a commemoration of good old traditions.

As you see, the new year celebrations in Baku can last throughout the year. Hospitality, tolerance and internationalism have always been a distinctive feature of a true bakunian. Don't be surprised to see a Muslim at a Christians' table during the January 7 Christmas and a Christian together with Jews during Romeshana.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Merry Orthodox Christmas! Happy Old New Year! Novruz Bayram Mubarak Olsun!

And thus throughout the year………………

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