Our Russian New Year’s Custom

Posted on January 1, 2013

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At the turn of the millennium, I had been on assignment in Moscow for some months.  The work was interesting, the city was vibrant, the people were engaging, and I think I must have mailed off matryoshka dolls to everyone I had ever met, and then some.  But as my assignment drew to a close, a Russian friend gave me a gift:  a small birch-bark bowl, colloquially known as a “tuesok,” and a large lacquered spoon.

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It is beautiful, and I thanked her profusely, but there was yet another special gift enclosed:  her neatly hand-written note relating the story of the folk tradition that goes with these objects.

This souvenir is for you as a memento of Russia, made of birch bark.

In Russia there is a custom:  if at New Year’s, you place this tuesok on the table and fill it to the rim with something (fruit, berries, cookies), then all year in your home there will be abundance, that is, everything in plenty.  Also, this big spoon must be on the table.

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A day or two later, back home with my Hubby, I filled Natasha’s little tuesok to the brim, as instructed, and put it on our dining table with the big spoon.   Our luck rises and falls like anyone else’s, but we have been fortunate always to have enough of what we need, and even a bit more.  Is the tuesok responsible?

I don’t know for sure, but we have taken care to fill our little tuesok to the brim every year since it came into our home.  And so it sits on our kitchen table today.  Tomorrow, we will carefully tuck Natasha’s note back in the bottom of the tuesok, and put it and the spoon back on display among our other treasures in our glass cabinet, awaiting the next New Year.

I sort of wish I had known about this custom before the end of my time in Moscow; maybe there would have been fewer matryoshkas and more tuesoks sent out to my friends!

Happy New Year, everyone!  Tell us about your New Year’s customs in the comments!

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