Parisians Enjoy Annual Christmas Decorations

The innovator Peter the Great tried to set up a custom of decorating a Christmas tree in Russia, but it took root only the next century, during the reign of Nicholas I. In each family, the tree was decorated in its own way, in accordance with wealth and taste. Nativity scenes depicting the birth of the baby Jesus were taken out for the holiday. And of course, everyone tried to send a greeting card to friends and relatives living far away.

There are a lot of items related to Christmas in Moscow museums. Six of these artifacts are in the material . Among them there are Christmas tree toys that remember little Mikhail Bulgakov, the windup donkey of Marina Tsvetaeva, a postcard that Alexander Scriabin once received from an anonymous fan, and much more.

Scriabin's Double Holiday

For Alexander Scriabin, the Christmas holiday was important not only as a Christian — on December 25, according to the old style (January 6, according to the new one), he himself was born. In this regard, the composer often received postcards in which he was congratulated on both holidays at the same time. They were sent by close friends and relatives, as well as fans.

One of these postcards, written by a fan of Scriabin's talent, is kept in the composer's memorial house. It was received on December 25, 1913. The unknown sender, who used the phrase "I remain your follower" as a signature, chose a postcard with the image of a policeman and a yard man saluting obviously the recipient of congratulations. The text of the postcard reads:

“Dear and highly respected Alexander Nikolaevich! I cordially congratulate you on the feast of the Nativity of Christ, as well as on your birthday. Wishing great success to all your works, and, in particular, the Ecstasy poem, among musicians and the public.”

The Poem of Ecstasy (the correct title of the work) is a symphonic poem written by Alexander Scriabin in 1907, first presented to the public in New York on November 27, 1908 under the baton of conductor Modest Altshuler. In Russia, The Poem of Ecstasy was first performed on January 19, 1909 in St. Petersburg under the baton of Hugo Varlich. The work brought the composer the 11th Glinka Prize (in total, Scriabin became its award winner 13 times).

There is also a text of the poem written by Scriabin in 1906. The composer deliberately did not include it in the orchestral score so as not to distract the performing musicians from the music. "Conductors who want to stage The Poem of Ecstasy can always be informed that there is a score, in general, I would like they treat to pure music first," he wrote.

“Your gray donkey steps straight...”

The donkey is one of the traditional symbols of Christmas. In the Nativity scenes depicting the Holy Family, an ox and a donkey look at the baby Jesus lying in a manger, warming him with their breath.

Among the exhibits stored in the Marina Tsvetaeva Memorial House, there is a children's windup toy in the form of a donkey made of papier-mache and felt. Made at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia, before getting into the museum, it was kept in the Karsavins-Suvchinskys family, with whom Marina Tsvetaeva was on friendly terms in France in the 1920s.

A donkey, a children's windup toy. The beginning of the XX century. Metal, papier-mache, wool

Today, this toy reminds us of The Christmas Lady poem written by the young Marina Ivanovna in 1909. Full of children's expectation of real miracles from the holiday, the poem was included in the Magic Lantern collection (1912):

Your gray donkey steps straight,

He is not afraid of either the abyss or the river…

Sweet Christmas Lady,

Take me with you to the clouds!

I'll get some bread for the donkey,

(They won't see, they won't hear—I'm lightweight!)

I won't take toys to heaven…

Take me with you to the clouds!

From the storeroom, as soon as Mom will doze off,

I'll get some milk for the donkey.

Sweet Christmas Lady,

Take me with you to the clouds!

A postcard for a highly respected teacher

Pre-revolutionary Christmas cards depicted both biblical stories and everyday scenes, decorated fir trees, candles, trio of horses. Winter landscapes, festive scenes, scenes of preparation for the holiday were popular. Especially often, children were painted on postcards — sometimes in the image of angels.

With the advent of photography, a new chapter in the history of post cards began: staged scenes involving children began to be printed on them. One of these postcards is now kept in the Museum of Moscow collection. On the reverse side there is a touching greeting written by a resident of Yalta, a certain I. Ivanov, to his teacher Sofia Timofeevna Metz:

“Dear teacher S.T., I congratulate you on the highly noble holiday of the Nativity of Christ and wish you to enjoy the event.”

Mikhail Bulgakov's Christmas tree toys

These Christmas decorations in the form of a deer and an owl were handed over to the Bulgakov Museum by Kirill Tarasevich.  His father was a friend of Sergei Shilovsky, the writer's stepson, as well as the attending physician of Bulgakov's widow, Elena Sergeyevna. The toys came to Tarasevich along with other things from apartment 44 of house 3/5 in Nashchokinsky Lane, where the writer spent the last years of his life — from 1934 to 1940.

Deer, Christmas tree decoration. The end of the XIX — beginning of the XX century. Cotton wool, glue, paint. Bulgakov Museum

It is not known when and under what circumstances the Christmas decorations came to be in Mikhail Afanasyevich's Moscow apartment. But it can definitely be said that these toys were especially dear to him — his childhood memories were associated with them. A deer and an owl decorated a Christmas tree in the Kiev house of the Bulgakovs family, near which the future writer and his six brothers and sisters and their parents, Afanasy Ivanovich and Varvara Mikhailovna, gathered.

Owl, Christmas tree decoration. The end of the XIX — beginning of the XX century. Papier-mache, gouache, glass. Bulgakov Museum

All seven Bulgakovs children were musically gifted and well-read. Family celebrations were not complete without home performances, for which the eldest son Mikhail wrote scripts.. Christmas was a special holiday for the family — Professor of theology Afanasy Bulgakov and his wife came from families of clergymen.

Mokhoviks that won Paris

According to the established tradition, old Christmas tree toys appear in the Dachnoye Tsaritsyno permanent museum exhibition in December. At the end of 2021, for the first time in a long period, toys in the form of mokhoviks — mythical creatures that lived, as it was believed, 200 years ago in the forests of the Russian North — were taken out of the storerooms. Toys like these have been made since ancient times by peasants in remote Vyatka villages, using any material at hand: dry moss, tow, tree bark, cones, hay.

Exceptionally fragile and requiring special storage conditions, Christmas tree mokhovik- toys have almost not reached our days. Single specimens have survived, which have become unique museum exhibits. Several mokhoviks are kept in the Russian Museum and Tsaritsyno.

This funny pair of anthropomorphic creatures with stern faces seems to be the work of a modern artist, but it is not so. Mokhoviks were made at the end of the XIX century, these toys made a splash at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889. The Vyatka Zemstvo reported that the mokhoviks “were greeted with delight by Parisians.”

Fireworks that Alexander Pushkin's great-grandfather saw

Until 1918, Russia lived according to the Julian calendar, or, as they say, according to the Julian Calendar. Christmas, therefore, fell on December 25, and its celebration smoothly flowed into the celebration of the New Year. The New Year was celebrated especially magnificently at the court. An engraving kept in the collection of the State Pushkin Museum allows you to look at one of these holidays of the middle of the XVIII century.

%quot%Fireworks on January 1, 1755%quot%. Unknown engraver. Etching, chisel. The end of 1754. Pushkin State Museum collections. Collection of P.V. Gubar

An unknown engraver engraved a festive fireworks launched in honor of the 1755 advent in front of the Winter Palace. This was the period of Elizabeth Petrovna's reign, marked not only by the establishment of Moscow University, the restoration of the Governing Senate and grandiose palace buildings, but also by the extraordinary luxury of court festivities.

The inscription in Russian and German at the bottom of the engraving reads: “The image of the great fireworks display presented in St. Petersburg in the New Year of 1755 in the evening on the Neva River in front of Her Imperial Majesty's Winter House.” In addition, on the sheet, it is read that “fireworks were composed and entertainment lights were invented by Major Martynov from artillery.” The festive illumination was attended by A.S. Pushkin's great-grandfather, Major General A.P. Hannibal, who served at that time in St. Petersburg in the Engineering Corps.

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