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Old New Year’s weekend

The concept of the Old New Year originates in the difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars. Because Julian holds every xx00 year to be a leap one while Gregorian allows that distinction only for those divisible by 400 (i.e., 2100 will be a leap year only in the Julian version), the former has had thirteen more February 29ths than the latter in the two thousand years since Julius Caesar founded the modern calendar. The net result is that January 1st currently comes in the Julian calendar when we are all already on January 14th.

The Julian version is used only by various branches of the Orthodox Churches and by the Berbers in Northern Africa (them, for agricultural purposes). The Julian New Year, though, is widely celebrated – in an understated kind of way – in Russia and other Eastern Orthodox countries. It is part tradition (Russia’s conversion to the Gregorian calendar in 1918 was recent enough to have an impact even on my generation – we celebrated October revolution of 1917 in November; “old” in the name of the occasion comes from Julian calendar colloquially being called “old style”) and part simple desire to have another holiday, even when it is not accompanied by the requisite time off work.

We celebrated as well this year, although a full day ahead of schedule. It was sort of a compensatory celebration for missed real New Year, getting together with our friends Mila and Andrey who live to the west of London. They also invited a couple of other friends, and we had a nice – and lengthy – soirée. Several bottles of wine (a couple of participants were partial to vodka, though), nice conversation, singing with both guitar and piano accompaniment. We even set up a game of préférence, which greatly contributed to the duration of the occasion. I played rather embarrassingly, but somehow still won 600 whists.

We returned home at 3am in the morning on Sunday. One would expect us to lay low for the remainder of it; to recuperate. But no, in the afternoon, we went to visit our other friends, Lyuba and Pasha, whose flat in St John’s Wood we have never been to before. They also invited other people, bringing the roster of attendees to 9 adults and 7 children, even though we were not officially celebrating anything. The other children were all younger than Kimmy, but she found common language with most of them. Becky eventually commandeered the study and entertained herself with online games. Natasha indulged herself in wide-ranging conversations, while I was primarily trying to block out the noise that the kids were making :-/

In between these gatherings, Natasha managed to take the girls to the skating rink, where they are now training with some hot-shot Russian coach. Becky has expressed interest in returning to the ice, and Kimmy is really enjoying it too. They will probably be going to the rink twice a week now.

And with that, whether you care or not, I wish you a happy Old New Year and bid you good night!