Carnival night. Welcoming New Year in Moscow culture houses of the 20th century

January 2

In the USSR, people used to get ready for the New Year celebrations in autumn. They stocked up on food for a holiday feast, and had festive costumes made for children's matinees. Each family had its own New Year traditions, as well as Moscow culture centres, which in Soviet times were called culture houses or palaces. Read more in article.

ZIL: Christmas Tree Party and ballroom post office

The first New Year party within the walls of ZIL Culture Centre, which was then called the Proletarsky district's Culture Palace, took place on the night of 1 January 1934. It was a really grand celebration, as the workers who had toiled all year long at the machines at the Likhachyov Automobile Plant wanted to have some fun and great time.

Fancy-dress balls were running from evening until morning. Despite the big name, they were not so luxurious, especially in the hard post-war years. But the workers, who considered the Culture Palace a real Palace and their other home, found ways to diversify the celebration. They played chess and checkers, held fun races, intellectual games, sang and danced. They especially loved dancing. On New Year's eve, there could be seven dance floors available.

We have an interesting document of the era — a note published in the late 1949 in the factory's newspaper. It allows to have a look at the halls filled with the New Year party bustle. It is the Culture Palace 70 years ago:

'The Culture Palace, a recreation spot popular with car manufacturers, is acquiring a festive look. A team of artists is finishing decoration of the audience halls and reception rooms. Representatives of public organisations and the best plant's Stakhanovites will wish the guests a happy New Year. Then the fun will start. Plant workers will take part in a fancy-dress ball; the theatre, the small and the lecture halls will offer to watch performances of the Moscow theatre's actors, popular and circus artists, animated films. The ballroom post office, photo studio, chess club, amusement and joke room will be open all night long. The most active participants of the ball will hold a new game 'Merry Teams' ... the Ball will run until 05:30 am'.

In the late 1940s, the legendary New Year's matinees for children started. There is a record in archival materials: 'During the winter holidays, over 700 schoolchildren visited the Culture Palace daily to join New Year Tree Parties. Little guests watched New Year performances and received gifts.'

The highlight of the street New Year program had always been the arrival of Father Frost and Snow Maiden on the government owned ZIL truck. There is a photograph taken in 1987.

Vnukovo Airport: planes and 'Twelve Months'

The Culture Palace of Vnukovo Airport (today Vnukovo Culture Centre) was built in 1968. Since its first days, it has been filled with diverse activities. Guests watched films, sang, danced, and engaged in sports. New Year parties had always been full of fun.

Each airport service celebrated in their own way. They congratulated and rewarded their best workers, gave gifts related to important events. In 1979, tests of the first Russian wide-body Il-86 aircraft began, and the employees engaged were the key heroes of the holiday.

The invitation cards traditionally had an airplane. Aviation surely was a key topic of all holidays and big events supported by all hobby clubs and workshops of the Palace. Participants of the Theatre Club staged performances featuring Ils, Ans and Tus aircraft, with members of Designing Club creating models of aircraft for scenery.

However, the most favourite and long-running New Year's performance at the Culture Palace of Vnukovo Airport was a fairy tale without any planes, pilots and dispatchers, that is 'Twelve Months'. Both children and adults loved it. Palace's young guests also enjoyed festive performances with Father Frost and Snow Maiden who gave them gifts in beautiful packages.

'Gaidarovets': curling and 'Icemakers'

Despite the hard times of the Soviet period, including shortage of food, the coupon provision system, the New Year's celebration in Gaidarovets Culture Palace was grand. It was a must to hold events, since the club was considered the best in the district, an example for other clubs to follow.

By the New Year, employees made an ice surface on their own for children to skate, and even organised 'Icemakers' district competition for the best preparation and operation of sports grounds.

And once, on the eve of school holidays, Gaidarovets made its visitors a New Year's gift, an opportunity to play curling. The real gear, a large stone with a handle, was too expensive, so they decided to make it at their own workshop. It was made of plastic containers for chemicals and old tea-kettles. Head of Crafts Club filled the 'irons' with plaster and inserted wooden pins serving as handles. Coloured targets on the ice were marked by aniline dyes. There were a lot of people who wanted to play with the 'iron' on the slippery ice.

'Moskvorechye': fancy-dress balls and amateur concert parties

From 1974, all New Year events at Moskvorechye Culture Palace had been arranged by the Trade Union Committee of the Moscow Polymetals Plant that managed the Culture Palace. Tickets were distributed through Trade Union organisations of enterprises, shareholders belonging to the Ministry of Medium Machine-Building Industry of the USSR. Each company arranged its own New Year parties for employees. These were amateur concert parties and festive concerts of amateur performance teams.

New Year tree parties for children were held from 25 December till 10 January. There were three shows a day. Before the performances began, theatrical interludes were arranged in the lobby on the second floor. Then children were invited to the big hall to immerse into a New Year's fairy tale, after which they were given gifts with sweets.

Young people used to join New Year fancy dress balls and carnivals, which became a tradition.

Rublyovo: Father Frost sled and theatre actors

The tradition of organising New Year's productions and performances originated at Rublyovo Culture Centre in 1916, three years after the administration of Rublyovskaya water station built its own facility, with the second floor occupied by people's theatre.

After the Great October Revolution, the people's theatre became the Kalinin Club. In the 1920s, an amateur orchestra was founded there, and later a branch of the agitprop pop band 'Blue Blouse'. There were no magnificent festivities lasting for many days here, feasting was rather modest, in line with the spirit of the time.

In the 1950s, the Kalinin Club moved to the clubhouse of the former military unit. The building Rublyovo Culture Centre still occupies appeared before the Soviet Union’s collapse. And it was also a kind of New Year's gift, as the building of Rublyovo Culture Centre in Vasiliya Botyleva Street opened at the very end of December 1990.


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