New Year's Trees: They're Like Christmas Trees But Russian

By | December 22, 2019

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A festively decorated tree in Moscow. (Photo by Vladimir Smirnov\TASS via Getty Images)

Toys. Lights. Family and friends gathered around a stunningly decorated evergreen tree. This might sound like a familiar Christmas scene---after all, that's how Christmas is celebrated in the West---but in Russia, family and friends gather around the tree on New Year's Eve. It's not because they've kept their Christmas trees up later than would otherwise be considered socially acceptable; a major part of the Russian New Year's Eve celebration is the yolka, or New Year's tree. Let's look at how the Russian Revolution killed the Christmas tree and gave rise to the yolka

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A German Christmas tree, lit with candles. (

The Origin Of The Christmas Tree

People in antiquity were fascinated by evergreen trees and shrubs well before the rise of Christianity. Since other trees shed their leaves in the fall and appeared to die over the winter to be reborn in the spring, trees that remained green throughout winter, they surmised, must have special properties. The Romans, Celts, Egyptians, Vikings, and Greeks all revered evergreens.

In the 16th century, after Christianity swept across Europe and Christian beliefs replaced pagan ones, Germans started to celebrate their faith by bringing evergreen trees into their homes, adding candles and ornaments because God demands decor. Soon, people across Europe and in the Americas erected Christmas trees, following the German tradition.