Every year, we have the same conversation with our newest friends and acquaintances. "Why do Americans celebrate New Year's Day on December 25th?" They see our Christmas tree and decorations, which look very similar to their New Year's tree, and get a little confused. Of course, we're happy to explain that we aren't celebrating the New Year, but the birth of Jesus Christ.
The celebration of New Year's Day on January 1st was introduced here by the Soviets. Although I've never seen anything that would officially confirm this, my guess is that the Communists encouraged a huge celebration of the New Year to replace the Russian Orthodox celebration of Christmas. Santa Claus, decorations, trees, lights, and a feast are all part of the New Year tradition here.
Since this is the crossroads where east meets west, there are also some deeply-rooted eastern traditions that are important at this time of year. Over the last week, Julie and Hannah Grace have been given several stuffed mice. Why? Chinese astrology is a major part of the celebration here, and this is the year of the rat.
This morning I saw an interesting headline in the newspaper that underlined the incredible foothold that astrology has in this part of the world:
"Children born during the Year of the Rat to mothers who were born during the Year of the Cat will have problems."
May God open their eyes to His word in Isaiah 40:26,
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.