On the Mark has returned to Russia. This is the third in an ongoing series of posts.
My favorite way to experience New Year's Eve is with a bottle of champagne, on the couch, with a friend or more, watching the festivities on television. I've done the major city thing, such as London and Paris, and smaller locations such as Acapulco and Hawaii. But there's nothing that beats a nice, quiet environment with close friends and/or family.
So I was quite pleased when my Russian friend preferred to bypass the fireworks and festivities at Lenin Square, just a few yards from my apartment, in favor of champagne and television on the couch.
New Year's Eve is a contrasting world in Russia. Outside the festivities are loud, boisterous and well induced by vodka. On television, however, the celebration is very stately. A few minutes before midnight President Putin gives a speech (dressed open-collared) to the nation, then the television screen switches to a big clock where the bell counts down to midnight. Then classical music, a few fireworks, and the next thing you know you're watching regular programming. No balls falling from tall buildings. No shots of huge crowds swarming and counting down the seconds; no kissing in the city center; no tremendous fireworks displays; no buildings lighted up like the Eiffel Tower; no reporters in amongst the crowd reporting on stuff you really couldn't care less about.
Outside is an entirely different matter. The celebrations start the day before with fireworks and crowds gathering at Lenin Square. There's a circus and joy rides. The fireworks continue well into the night and through the following night. All through the day you'll hear fireworks going off.
I've never been one to believe that New Year's Eve/Day brings new hope and new beginnings. To me it's just another day with good food, drink and football games (when the good ones used to be on New Year's Day). But my friends in Russia say that there is little hope in Russia for the "common person," so New Year's Eve is a big event because it's the only day of the year when they feel there is some hope.