Double Christmas and New Year?

How Russia came to the different celebrations of the same holidays

Reading time 6 minutes

The humanity invented many calendars such as moon and moon-solar, Julian and Gregorian, also new Julian one. Let’s know what calendars used in Russia and how they affected contemporary holidays.

Ancient Slavic tribes had many customs connected with tne Moon
Ancient Slavic tribes had many customs connected with tne Moon

Our ancestors espoused paganism so they closely associated life with the cycle processes of nature. The ancient Slavic tribes counted time via moon calendar. The term between moon appearing and its disappearing constituted approximately 30 days and was called a month. The celebration of New Year started at around December 25 and lasted for a dozen days after the solstice. Then the duration of daylight started to expand, and the Slavs launched a new sowing circle.

The calendar changing in Russia happened in the X century because of a new faith arrival of. Knyaz Vladimir baptized his territories to the Byzantine rite. Christian date calculation came with the new religion. Since then Slavic tribes started distinguishing years from the Creation of the World and stated the 1st of March as the new year’s first day. Months’ names also were changed according to the Julian calendar that was invented in Rome at 46 B.C.

Ivan III removed the New Year from the 1st of March to the 1st of September. The tzar sought to unification of holidays in Russia, so in 1492 combined the New Year with the harvest festival and the tax collection time.

Gregory XIII is famous for the calendar introduced into the Catholic countries in XVI century. the author of the calendar is a priest and astronomer Christopher Clavius
Gregory XIII is famous for the calendar introduced into the Catholic countries in XVI century. the author of the calendar is a priest and astronomer Christopher Clavius

In the XVI century, people found out that the duration of year in the Julian calendar did not correspond to the astronomical one. The Earth revolves around the Sun 12 minutes faster than the Romans believed in ancient times. In 1582, the discrepancy constituted 10 days. That was the reason why Christmas shifted to spring, and Easter to summer. To improve calculations, Pope Gregory XIII suggested a new calendar which was named Gregorian later. It was accepted so in Catholic world October 15 came after October 4 to annihilate the gap between calendars.

This gap between calendars accumulates over every 128 years. Therefore, before 1701, it made up 10 days, while nowadays it amounts to 13. While the dissimilarity between the Gregorian and astronomical year amasses over 3333 years. New Julian calendar is the most precise. It lags from the astronomical year no sooner than over 40,000 years pass. Until 2800, the New Julian and the Gregorian calendars are alike.

Peter I was that who moved the New Year to the 1st of January, though he left the Julian calendar. Therefore, Russia stepped into the 1700th year A.D. from 7208th year from the Creation of the World. However, due to the gap of 10 days Russians in St. Petersburg celebrated The New Year when, for instance, in Amsterdam people lived in the 10th of January.

Tikhon is the first Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia after the restoration of the Patriarchate in Russia in 1917
Tikhon is the first Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia after the restoration of the Patriarchate in Russia in 1917

The second New Year occured in Russia after 1918 when the Bolsheviks finally switched to the Gregorian calendar. Although, the secular state accepted it, the Church still stuck to the old style. Patriarch Tikhon reject the calendar because according to it, the Orthodox Easter could fall before the Jewish holiday Pesach. It contradicted the decisions of the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 A.D. Therefore, the Orthodox celebrate Christmas Eve not at the 24th of December as Catholics do but at the 6th of January. And they celebrate the Old New year at the 13th of January.

Thus, since the tenth decade of the last century, Orthodox people in Russia have been living simultaneously on two calendars with two new years and Christmas in January.

Where the Halloween came from?

A brief history of the worldwide holiday

Reading time 6 minutes

Although many people celebrate the Halloween at the eve of November 1, not many of them are aware of the roots of the holiday. This article is just about the history of Halloween.

The holiday was invented by Druids that was one of the peoples pertaining to the ancient Celtic tribes. The majority of Druids inhabited the territory of modern UK, France and Spain. They divides a year to 2 seasons, so they did not have Spring and Autumn. Summer ended at October 31 and the next day new season, Winter, and New Wear begun. Also, October 31 was the last day of harvest. Then Celtic tribes celebrated Samhain which means the end of Summer in translation from Celtic. During the holiday people lit sacred fires, thanked gods for not depriving the tribe from crops, and met the dark season. Samhain was the ancestor of contemporary Halloween.

The area setteled by the Celtic tribes B.C.
The area setteled by the Celtic tribes B.C.

Ancient Celtic tribes adhere paganism. They believe that in the Samhain’s night souls of the dead roam in the world of the living. Celtic tried to propitiate them with sweet gifts so that they keep the next harvest safe. These beliefs have transformed into trick-or-treat tradition. Children knock to the doors of adults to entreat them to give sweets and biscuits. Nobody refuses because in the past superstition that anyone who did not open the door for the spirit, would be punished existed.

Halloween is the day, when people eat the largest amount of sweets anually
Halloween is the day when people eat the largest amount of sweets anually

One more custom is carving lanterns from pumpkins. Not having wanted to attract ghosts to houses at Samhain’s night, ancient Celts extinguished their hearths and kindled forest fires. To reach the forest safely, they dressed in animal skins. In the forest the Druids performed sacrifices: they burned cows at the stake. After that the fire became sacred. Members of the tribe placed coals from their fires in lanterns cut from turnips. Then the Druids took the lanterns and left them at the door so that the souls of their ancestors could see their homes and escape wandering around the world. Dark spirits, according to the Celts, were afraid of this fire.

The tradition is based on Celtic myths. The legend says that the Irishman Jack lived to outwit both God and the devil, therefore he did not go to heaven or hell after death but remained in purgatory forever. In order not to wander in the pitch darkness, he made a lantern. The farmer put a hell coal given by the devil into the lantern.

Nowadays, the pumpkin has become the main symbol of Halloween
Nowadays, the pumpkin has become the main symbol of Halloween

At the beginning of the new era the Celts were conquered by the Romans then both were forced to become Christians. Because of this, pagan holidays were gradually mixed with Church ones or blurred but they were not consigned to oblivion, for example, Samhain underwent a metamorphosis.

After Pope Gregory III officially moved the celebration of All Hallows Eve from spring to November 1, the ancient pagan holiday and the new Catholic one coincided. From that moment Samhain was called Halloween. Initially, All Hallows Eve was shortened to Hallowe’en and then to Halloween.

Halloween parade in New-York, the capital of the holiday
Halloween parade in New-York, the capital of the holiday

In the 19th century many Irish emigrated to North America and brought the traditions of the holiday. Now Halloween is celebrated most widely in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries. From the beginning of A.D. to the XXI century many rituals have changed. Jack’s lantern is not made from turnips anymore, nowadays people make it from pumpkins. Moreover, they carve not ancestors’ faces but terrifying ones. Revelers do not dress up in animal skins they wear costumes of evil spirits. Nowadays, the celebration of Halloween is becoming more popular even in those countries that did not adopt the Celtic culture from their ancestors.

Borderless education

How Russian students take part in international mobility

Reading time 5 minutes

According to RBC data, in 2015 more than 50 thousand Russians studied abroad. This is about 1.5% of all international students. Statistics have shown that students prefer to travel to the United States and European countries although China is becoming more and more popular.

The cost of education in Europe universities according to the data of state agencies
The cost of education in Europe universities according to the data of state agencies

Any student can build an independent educational trajectory of education abroad or participate in international academic mobility programs with the help of home-university. RNU HSE is among those universities that offer such exchange programs. It has more than 74 arrangements with institutes in 27 countries.

HSE stusents on the international mobility program
HSE stusents on the international mobility program

HSE advises to divide the participation into the international academic mobility program into several stages:

  1. Make sure that you meet all the criteria that apply to exchange candidates.
  2. Calculate your budget: you will not have to pay for the education but both visa and transport, insurance and accommodation, food and unexpected expenses are covered by the student. In case of difficulties with calculations, you can use the site.
  3. Submit an online application form to participate in the competition: for autumn mobility it is held in February-April and for spring one in August-October.
  4. Check your email address to find out the selection results. They are announced one month after the end of the application process.
  5. If the application is approved, get ready to go: check the list of things and study the recommendations for traveling abroad on the website of the Russian foreign Ministry.

To make sure that the student is ready to study, the host country may ask to confirm the level of English fluency. The tip: programs that require international certificates have lower competition. Therefore, if you confirm your knowledge of the language with an international exam certificate in advance, it will significantly increase your chances of learning abroad. To do this, you should pass IELTS or TOEFL but not lower than the level B2 according to the CEFR classification.

The stages of fluency in foreign languages according to classifications of CEFR and British Council
The stages of fluency in foreign languages according to classifications of CEFR and British Council

According to the experience of students who have studied abroad, you should learn ahead as much as possible about the country you are going to and study the course program. Also, you should know in advance how you will be evaluated and whether you will be able to recalculate the received grades on the return. The clearer and more extensive your understanding of life in the host country, the less likely you are to suffer from culture shock or homesickness. To do this, you can monitor the media platforms of the host country, correspond with locals or analyze the experience of your predecessors. No one can guarantee that you will be 100% comfortable in your new place but careful preparation will help make the experience more enjoyable.