Symbol of the holiday: Glavarchiv — about New Year and Christmas trees

January 11

Moscow began celebrating the New Year in about the same way as we used to, in 1700 under Peter I.

In the imperial decree of 1699, citizens were recommended “to make ornaments from the trees and branches of pine, spruce and juniper.” Over time, Christmas trees have become a traditional symbol of the winter holiday. But this was not always the case: after 1917, the evergreen tree was even prohibited. The Glavarchiv materials will tell about what times the green ‘beauties’ went through.

In pre-revolutionary Russia, the Christmas tree was a guide to the world of gifts and edible surprises. The pastry shops sold Christmas trees decorated with apples and pears, sugar, chocolate, marzipan figurines covered with gold leaf and walnuts. Real wax candles were attached to the tree branches. Children from wealthy or poor families received various toys for the holiday: horses, locomotives, drawing supplies. The gifts were also given to the children of orphanages: hats, overcoats, waistbands, or scarves.

Christmas markets appeared by the middle of the XIX century — initially in St. Petersburg, and then in Moscow. One of the most popular fairs was located in Okhotny Ryad. Charity Christmas markets were also held at that time, funds from which went to help children's hospitals and other institutions.

Since the second half of the 1920s, the spruce as a symbol of the holiday turned out to be under a temporary prohibition. This was explained by the fact that trees need to be preserved, and forests should not be cut down. In the Glavarchiv there is a record with the memoirs of the polygraph artist G. Reshetin, who was born in 1922. He said that his mother, even despite the prohibition, brought the children a fir tree from the forest every year. She used to camouflage it so that not to be arrested on the train and the tree would not be taken away.

In the mid-1930s, the sale of fir trees in Moscow markets, and then at special New Year markets resumed. Price for fir trees were regulated by the state. So, in Moscow in December 1945, a fir tree up to a meter high cost five rubles, a two-meter spruce cost 11 rubles, and a forest ‘beauty’ with a height of nine to 10 meters was estimated at 650 rubles. The crown of such a tree was up to three meters in radius.


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