Slavic community rings in New Year with family party

Take a look at the celebration that once again packed the big room at Midland Library …

Outside the large activity room at outer East Portland’s Midland Library, “Russian Bear” Anton Lakhovhtch awaits his cue to come rushing through the crowd inside, as the Slavic New Year celebration gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Across former Soviet Union countries, and in Russia, Christmas is a liturgical holiday. While some families in Russian and Slavic countries are starting to celebrate the Western Christmas, but it’s not as big an event as their New Year welcoming celebration.

That’s what East Portland News learned from Multnomah County Midland Library specialist Natalya Bokov – at the party that packed Midland Library’s large activity room on the afternoon of January 10. This New Year’s Day celebration in outer East Portland was actually four days early, according to the Julian calendar, which observes it on January 14.

Storyteller Lilya asks a question of the Russian Bear, as Snow Maiden (played by Evgeniya) listens.

The exact date didn’t make any difference to the families who watched a loosely associated group “Vernykh Druzey” (Trusted Friends) put on a fully-scripted show with brief skits, music, sing-alongs. It’s played out by actors taking on the persona of familiar characters, including a version of Santa called Ded Moroz, his granddaughter and helper Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), and forest creatures including Lisa (“fox” in Russian).

“This annual event has taken place in alternate years between the Gresham and the Midland Libraries,” Bokov said.

“It’s amazing how this group writes a script, sews their own costumes, and creates their own decorations,” Bokov reflected. “Clearly, this is something they enjoy doing.”

Kids point and shout answers asked of the audience.

Most of the children watched in wide-eyed wonder as the pageant progressed from story to story, and clapped their hand to the music. Many of the adults held back tears as they sung aloud Holiday songs of their childhood.

“It’s like a pageant of folk tales this year,” Bokov explained. “And, in this edition, they’ve decided to have kids guess the folktale being acted out and presented. And yes, Grandpa Frost makes appearances during the program.

Roxy Rybitska (playing Lisa the Fox) romps with Olesya Semenovs (the Sly Cat).

Although the kids are playing the guessing game, it’s clearly difficult for many the adults not to join in as they see and hear folk tales from their homeland brought to life.

“We believe it is important for children to learn about their parents’ culture, as well as what they see, now that they live in the United States,” Bokov noted. “This is a fun way to engage children in learning about their culture.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Comments are closed.

© 2005-2024 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.