Not 'Merry Christmas,' but 'Happy New Year': Best Soviet postcards

The Soviet Union and Russia are known for many New Year traditions: one of them is sending New Year cards to friends and relatives in other towns and cities

The Soviet Union and Russia are known for many New Year traditions: Olivier or "Russian" salad and the film Irony of Fate (May the Steam Be with You!) are perhaps the most famous. However, there was another one: sending New Year cards to friends and relatives in other towns and cities.
Today, letters and cards are becoming a thing of the past, and snail mail is increasingly used only for sending postcards with idealized views of far-flung destinations.
Looking at the cards that our mothers and grandmothers sent makes you want to preserve them for posterity, since no one makes them like that any more.
It is difficult to imagine, but there was once a time in the Soviet past when New Year and all things associated with it — trees, cards, celebrations — were banned. In the autumn of 1929, New Year and Christmas were declared usual working days and winter holidays were branded a "bourgeois fancy."
In December and January special groups of volunteers patrolled the streets, peering through windows to check that the government decree was being observed. New Year trees went underground, so to speak. Those reluctant to deprive their children of this holiday celebrated in secret.
The situation changed in 1935. Then secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Pavel Postyshev managed to persuade Stalin that a decorated fir tree could be converted from a religious symbol to one of a blissful Soviet childhood.
The New Year of 1935-36 was celebrated nationwide in the company of beautifully adorned trees and homemade cards. The New Year celebration became an integral part of Soviet life.
Soviet soldiers short of essential supplies, especially in hot spots, were unlikely to receive a florid greeting card, so they made their own by cutting out rectangles from colorful posters or thick, beautiful wallpaper.
Because Christmas in the Soviet Union was not officially celebrated, you won't find any Christmas cards as such from the period. Whereas today people write "Happy New Year and Merry Christmas" (in that order), Soviet cards contained only New Year greetings.
Soviet New Year cards were fairly homogenous, and tended to show either Father Frost (Santa Claus) bearing gifts or children dancing in a circle around a tree.
Often they depicted animals: squirrels, bear cubs, hedgehogs and, most commonly of all, hares. The hare happens to be the unofficial symbol of Russian New Year in general.
Many songs about winter mention the animal, and boys dress up as hares in New Year school plays. Father Frost competes with these lovely creatures for space on New Year cards, often losing out.
Today, Soviet New Year cards are valued not only by collectors as vintage and rare, but by common folk too. They are, after all, a gift from history.

READ MORE: It's Christmas time: Russian vintage postcards

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

We've got more than 1,5 million followers on Facebook. Join them!

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies