Ho-ho-ho and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast – the weekly English show where we speak about everything under the sun. The major goal of this show is to help you improve your English and of course learn something new. My name’s Katya, I’m your host, and today with me…
Gary from the United States.
Benjamin from London, the UK.
Ben, this is your first time with us, so can you please tell us something about yourself?
Well I just arrived here six days ago from London and it’s a very fun experience being here in Novosibirsk in the December winter. So I studied Russian at university and I just wanted to come here to Russia to properly learn Russian and to teach English.
Fantastic! And what about, you know, your free time? What do you like doing? What are your interests?
So generally I… Well back in London I love cycling and I love camping as well. A little bit difficult to do it in a Siberian winter but I hope at some point I’ll be able to get riding my bike. Also love travelling, I love checking out different cities, different places. Yeah.
If you love winter activities – snowboarding, ice skating, you’ll have plenty of opportunities.
Alright, so this is new year time coming, Christmas time coming. And you know what would be the best gift for us, for the BigAppleSchool? Your feedback. You know, we’re doing our best to be as useful to you as possible and we would like to get some feedback about it.
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It won’t take much time or effort, but it’ll help us a lot. So and now, my favorite topic ever, cause I love Christmas so much and I’m sorry about, you know, being overly-excited about this, but yeah, Christmas. So I would like to ask a question, which is what is Christmas? How did that appear? Why are we celebrating it? And I think Gary can tell us about that.
I think that’s my job, yeah. So here I go. Alright, Christmas, I’m just gonna tell you the whole story here.
Briefly anyway. Christmas, of course, it’s a religious holiday to celebrate a great event, and event is событие, in human history - the day when Jesus Christ was born. it is easy to know how long ago this was, approximately,
because the world measures time, our years, as "B.C." in English "before Christ" for all time before that great event and "A.D." - "anno domini" technically here, for year of the Lord. Господь это Lord.
And time of course is only an approximation - we don't know exactly when Jesus was born, what year, we don't even know what time of year it was. What is most important is not the date and truthfully, it's not even the religious holiday either that is important, but the event itself.
It's a birthday, then, of a person who God had promised in the Bible would come. The promise was made and repeated over hundreds and hundreds of years in the first part of the bible which was given to the jewish people a thousand years and more BC, before Christ.
But Jesus was the one and only time that God visited this world by actually becoming man. Jesus was God AND man. So that God for the period of one human life became a man, with a very important purpose.
Wouldn’t happen only one time in human history for no purpose, it’s a great purpose, which was for this man to then give the life that he began on a day that we call Christmas, to give that life up, willingly, to die for our sins. Sins is грехи. So what our sins are briefly here quickly, and I don’t wanna kill Katya’s joy here.
But actually this would help that in a final sense, but our sins are the many ways that we have broken the law of God. Our conscience, our совесть, tells us when we have done the wrong thing, it’s like the law of God that we have inside us.
There are more sins which our conscience is too poor of an instrument to tell us what is wrong, it’s like a broken measurement device, it doesn’t work well. So we need to be forgiven these sins by God Himself, in a way which God accepts. Jesus is that way of forgiveness which God accepts. I’m really going into this, okay. You asked for it.
Don’t ask a preacher to explain Christmas without getting into what it really is. So Jesus is that way of forgiveness which God accepts. He even did this entire thing, it was all of his doing, to send Jesus to be born of a virgin woman in one place, at one time, to make a way of forgiveness for all people in all places for all times.
Which means us, too, because we’re people and this is the place. And it is a time. So this is all done for us as well. So that the meaning of Christmas is about hope, that God will defeat every enemy finally, even sickness & death, of which we’ve had this year I’m afraid too much frankly. We need hope. It is about peace with God, but also between men, and we all know there is not much peace between men.
It is about salvation, спасение, so that we can have God as part of our life so long as we live, and go to heaven with God when we die. Now there is a lot of wonderful Christmas music which people love, at least in America, in England I know this is the case. There is a lot to sing about here!
And that’s why the music is great. The bible says even the angels sang when Jesus was born, so God kind of lit up the heaven, the sky, above with angels. They knew the event was very great. So it's the event itself, it's the person who made the event great.
His birth; Jesus's birth Christmas, Christ mass -- "Christ" is in the word, it’s in the word, it’s in the beginning. Mass was the catholic version of the holiday. So the bible puts it this way and this was the words of the angles, on that day it says For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is about and where it appeared, how it appeared.
That is fantastic! I mean, I thought, you know, I had a very simple idea about that, so I only thought okay Christmas must be the day when Christ was born. But you gave so much detail. Thank you! Thank you! And what about celebrating Christmas? Do you celebrate Christmas? And if so, how?
Well just before I start, I believe here in Russia it is not as much a commercialized experience as it is in the west perhaps. Perhaps here Christmas is more of a religious event. Whereas in the west it’s become more of a secular holiday recently.
I think maybe here it was a non-event for 75 years and then it became an event again. And I think people are trying to maybe understand here what it means and how to observe it and how to celebrate it to some degree. Of course, it’s history waved before, the revolution.
But I would say that we in Russia celebrate New Year and then Christmas remains a religious holiday for many people. So which is why for us what is commercialized is not Christmas but New Year. But we’ll get into that. Like you know, as a separate subtopic.
But yeah, I would like to ask you about Christmas because this is not something we have here on the 25th of December. So I’m curious as how you usually spend this day and Christmas Eve.
Well normally it’s the time to be with family so I don’t know if anyone has seen the Home Alone film, maybe you have seen it, it’s a classic..
Yeah, classic American film and there you can see the whole family comes together and the whole reason why the film is eventful is because the family becomes gets split up. So personally I’ve always spent it with my parents, my brother, we just chill out, have fun, maybe fight. It’s a fun event.
But yeah, this mainly a time.. It’s a time to be with your family so we’d normally eat turkey. My mom would cook some good food, it’s a fun experience.
I’ve heard that you have been travelling a lot, so have you been living in other countries as well?
Yeah, sure, so it’s along story. I’m English, but I was born in Brazil. My dad was working in Brazil. So Christmas in Brazil. I was only in Brazil until I was 7 years old, so it was very hot there. So it was a very different experience. But in Brazil, it’s a very religious country so they properly celebrate Christmas, so I’m surely remember very hot melting Christmas tree.
Cause I think to everyone… Everyone has this direct association of Christmas you know being cold, maybe snowy if you’re lucky, then you have white Christmas. But yeah, I have always wondered what it’s like to celebrate Christmas and New Year in hot places.
Yeah. It’s a naught experience.
Yeah, probably being not the best experience, no, I can’t even…
Gary, and what about you? How do you celebrate if you do?
Well I do, and it… Again, if I were younger, right, and doing a different thing in life, I would be... It would be a family situation, right, like you described basically, quite like that. But as it is of course, I’m here, I work with the church, so we do is related to that. Not on December 25th, but on January 7th, just because we’re here and nobody knows the actual date, so it’s unimportant, it’s the event again, so.
Gary, is that an orthodox church?
No, it’s protestant church, Baptist.
So, in any case, we do observe it and we have a program and so forth, special like a holiday and a big meal together, it’s a fellowship time. We say fellowship is общение and it’s… And that’s what we do now. When I was a kid it was totally child’s Christmas in America. Long ago.
So Katya how did you spend Christmas in Yakutia? Cause you grew up in Yakutia, correct?
I did, I did. So, when you say Christmas I think about January the 7th. So but it was family time. So my family, we used to make this chicken pie. So the cake, well, the pie that we would only make on Christmas and not any other time of the year. And we would spend time together, maybe watch some movies and play bingo. Sounds so…
Are there chickens in Yakutia? Aren’t they too cold for…?
There are chickens, but that is a technicality.
We prepare for the winter, you know, beforehand.
Oh yeah, that was basically it. I can’t remember any going out, or anything like that. So every tine it’s from January the 1st till January the 7th, it’s the time off so usually people do not work. So we would spend this time together with the family until I moved to Siberia, away from my parents I’m afraid.
You both have mentioned Christmas being overly commercialized. So is there anything… I mean, cause I’ve noticed this craze I think. Right the day after Thanksgiving, the 20-something of November, everything turns Christmassy, it’s everywhere the ad, the shops going crazy, Christmas music is everywhere.
So what do you think about it? Can we do something with that? Or is that okay? Should that be that way?
I mean, I was just in the supermarket Pyaterochka and there was western Christmas music playing. I thought it was quite funny to hear it here in Russia. I don’t personally have a problem with it, but I think perhaps from a religious perspective, correct me if I’m wrong Gary, it might detract from the whole religious experience having a commercialized Christmas.
Well, yeah, I mean, it’s not… The world does what the worlds does and what it does is make money. And so that’s what they’re concerned with and it’s a great way to make money.
And a lot of businesses make most of their year or much of their year around the holidays. And so which has no connection to anything religious of course. But I don’t have… I’m not offended by that, that does not make me sad. It makes me sad, but it doesn’t make me angry.
I don’t expect most people to have the real meaning of Christmas be the main thing for them. I don’t expect that. I would be surprised. I would love to be pleasantly surprised, but I don’t certainly expect it.
Ben. Christmas is just what, it’s next week?
So what about you? How are you going to…?
So I’m going to skype my parents, but then again I have four lessons here. So I’m gonna teach some lessons.
Celebrate with my students.
Wow! Not exactly the way I would like to spend my Christmas.
To be honest it’s a different Christmas, and I wanna see what the Russian Christmas is like on the 7th of January. I’m not much bothered by it, I’ll give my parents a call afterwards. I mean, I actually come from a Jewish, or half-Jewish family, but we still celebrate Christmas anyway. We enjoy the experience nonetheless.
Alright, so for you it’s like an opportunity to have a family gathering, spend some together, right, Ben?
Yeah, I don’t come from a religious Jewish family, but we still love celebrating Christmas.
Alright, alright. And do you think that Christmas celebration has changed over the years? So let’s say, 20, 10-20 years? So what do you think?
I’m not sure you know. Again, coming back to the film Home Alone.
Ben’s basic experience, base line knowledge about Christmas is Home Alone.
I have some thoughts about Home Alone. Because when I was a kid… I love the movie. Now all I can think about when I watch it is 1) who are Kevin’s parents? And how much do they make that they can afford a house like that? And 2) what’s their electricity bill like?
So yeah, sorry, coming back to…
Well that’s properly commercial, that’s getting in the spirit of modern Christmas right there, yeah. The electricity bill and nice house, wonder what..
Not just the electric bill, they stayed at the Plaza hotel in Central New York.
So I wonder how much that room cost.
That would be an expensive little leisure, yes.
Right, that’s right. Typical American family.
So the Plaza hotel for those who don’t know is right next to central park in New York city, so it’s a very luxurious hotel. So only the wealthiest of the wealthiest stay there.
But every American can go there just like that. That’s what you’ll learn about America by watching movies.
Form the right opinion, don’t get the wrong idea, get the right idea.
Also, speaking of, you know, families spending an incredible amount of money on decorations sometimes. I know a family who live in a small town in Massachusetts, in Malden, and they never go on holiday. Every year they save up to 4 thousand dollars just to, you know, decorate the house, the yard and, you know, pay the electricity bills. And I think it’s a little bit too much.
I mean I love decorations. Okay, I love Christmas and everything, but even for me..
Come on! Just come on! If you really love decorations, that’s fine. That’s even better.
So I’m sorry, we drifted off a little bit from the question, but you said that you don’t think it has changed, the celebration?
It’s kind of hard to say. I mean, if you look at the film for instance, they celebrate it…
Ben actually has not been living..
Well I am home alone here in Siberia, so…
Alright. Life imitates art.
Well hopefully you won’t have any burglars.
Yeah it wouldn’t be like that here. Очень плохо.
Well I think we have a good охранник downstairs, he will protect me, so a good security.
Aw, that’s so sweet that you think so.
So for Christmas my computer gets stolen.
People come thinking such lovely thoughts.
So and what if I ask you the following question – what is the best Christmas that you’ve ever had?
That’s a good question. I’d say…
I know Ben’s was stay home watching Home Alone for the 44th time.
Let me just think. I was gonna say in England we really, at least in the south of England you don’t really get white Christmases. I once had a white Christmas and it was really nice. Because usually in England the snow, well, the ice is slushy, so whenever you walk through the streets, it’s disgusting, horrible. But it was really nice, we once had white Christmas and we played football. Soccer if… Speaking American English.
So yeah we played football in the snow and it was really nice.
Aww! Wait, so have you only had one white Christmas?
I think we had two maybe. The 20-something years I’ve been in England we’ve only had two.
Well, you are lucky to have one here.
Yeah I’m very privileged.
Yeah, you have one here, you made a really solid choice if you want to see some snow.
And I guarantee it stick around every year.
Not every a question. Don’t worry about it, think about something else.
Something would be wrong with Siberia if it wasn’t a white Christmas.
Yeah, all that global warming out there would be…
Gary and what about you? The best Christmas you’ve ever had?
Oh my goodness, I’d have to go back to being a little kid. Can I do that?
Going back almost to the events we were discussing earlier? Alright, half-way anyway? But yeah, I would say when I was a little kid and maybe like in 5th grade, how old would I be? 10-11? Something like that. And it was a little commercialized I suppose, toys, you are looking for the big toy.
And I had a little thing, I hap to put my train, probably when I wasn’t this age but when I was a little younger, but I had an H0 train and it was a toy train, but a pretty good toy train, an expensive toy train.
And we would do things like that and you might get a big gift, you know, that you’re looking forward to. And your family’s together, and everybody is, how shall we say? Alive.
That’s a part of it. So remember that too by the way. While you’re remembering other things about the time, to appreciate that, and so it was… that’s the time I suppose we would remember. And we had snow. And we had vacation from school, and we had, we played football outside.
American football, with that weird shaped football, like a rugby football and things like that. So I’d have to go back to that time.
It sounds amazing, it sounds amazing.
Well did you have an American football pitch by your house? Or did you just improvise playing?
No, we played like in the street. We played like in the street. But now like street. Not like stickball in New York city, something in the suburbs.
I guess you didn’t have protective equipment?
No, no, no. That was 20 years later, we weren’t protected then, we just went out there and got hurt.
And you grew up in.. Oh my god.
Yeah it gets cold there yeah.
Yeah, yeah. Most years we would have.. It would be unusual if we didn’t’ have snow. Not super unusual, but you would expect snow.
Can you tell us something about traditions, like Christmas traditions in the US and in the UK?
That’s a good question, I mean of course you have religious traditions, but let me just think. Oh, Christmas crackers. So whenever you’re around the table, you get little Christmas crackers, which have really minor… how to explain? Minor explosives inside the crackers. Obviously…
Oh so they’re crackers like firecrackers?
Exactly. Like firecrackers.
I would think like crackers like the крекеры.
Oh the food! Yeah yeah yeah. Christmas crackers look like, I’m trying to think… like a sweet wrapper, like a big sweet wrapper. And you get two people, you hold each end of the cracker and you pull. And there’s usually a present inside the cracker and a little explosive sound that comes from the firecracker. So that’s a little tradition.
Oh I have… I saw that… Well, I get all my knowledge about the UK from the tv shows I’m afraid, I’m sorry. And I saw some crackers in the tv shows and there was a paper crown and everyone… And after that some people told me that they make each family member to actually put on a paper crown which everyone hates.
Oh wow. Wearing a paper crown that sounds awesome!
Man, I feel like I’ve been missing out all of this! Not even one paper crown!
So it’s a paper crown, a kind of a… What’s inside? Some kind of a toy?
Yeah a little gift or something, sometimes..
Like a terrible joke as well?
Yeah, exactly. A little terrible joke. So sometimes you get for instance a screwdriver set or maybe.
I mean that’s very useful.
I love that! My favorite! Once I got a really old one, I got nail clippers which was a really funny Christmas cracker.
Yeah not exactly what you would expect to get on Christmas.
But still useful, you know.
And so… Oh my god, I had a question. So paper crowns, oh yeah! I wanted to say that if there’s anyone listening who’s going to be on Christmas lesson with Ben – please bring a paper crown.
Yeah, bring a paper crown.
So okay. So Christmas crackers. Anything else that you would call a tradition in the UK? A Christmas tradition?
Well mainly food. So of course as is done in America we have the turkey and we have stuffing. Yeah. That is a tradition in America, is it not?
Well, we do turkey at Thanksgiving.
And I think that we usually had, there was some sort of a sequence to the food – we had turkey on Thanksgiving, and then I think we had roast beef on Christmas, and then we had port at New Year’s. I mean, we did. No crowns though.
It was always empty. Now that I look back it was just empty.
Yeah no crackers, no crowns, I mean…
Alright. And what about the US traditions, Christmas traditions?
Well, I think the main thing’s you maybe decorate the tree, right. If you’re really ambitious you go and get a tree, you buy a tree. A live tree.
Can we get a little bit of a parallel? So you mentioned a tree, but Ben hasn’t mentioned a tree. Does that mean you don’t put up a tree?
Oh no we definitely have a tree. So Christmas tree…
Our one is artificial, but yeah, a lot of people sell Christmas trees. It’s actually quite a lucrative business in the UK and I guess America too.
Yes. No we are, maybe when I was really little, for a couple of years my parents, maybe got a… We call ‘em a live tree, although they’re really a dead tree. I mean in the sense that they are not gonna live anymore. But if you put them in water they stay green. And so but after that my parents bought artificial tree.
Cause the trees shed every year, so you have the..
Yeah the needless, yeah, the fissles, whatever they’re called.
The needles. They shed all over the floor.
Have you heard about the new trend in this? In the Christmas tree thing? So nowadays it’s popular to get a tree in some kind of a pot, so it’s alive, you don’t actually cut it. Then you rent it, then you give it back.
You give it back, and then after some time they actually plant it somewhere in the forest, so it actually is not dead after all, but it keeps growing.
I think that is very good. That is very good.
Alright, so tree. What else?
Well and the decorating. That was the other thing that went with the tree, you decorate it. We had some ornaments, we call them ornaments, the little things, like you have them here too in a glass or other materials. And some of them were very old, they went back to maybe my grandmother.
There is some, you know, special aesthetic about those old glass Christmas ornaments.
Yeah, they’re beautiful. Some of them are beautiful. And we had one and I remember it was a face of a baby, a baby’s face, like, you know, hand-painted. And I’m sure it was glass. It was really beautiful. And little drums and things like that.
And so yeah, those, and of course we had new ornaments because it’s a big tree. And but anyway, so that was part of it. And we would decorate the tree together and that was the tradition, and then open the presents together.
That was the other part. Some people were Christmas eve people, which we were. Other people were Christmas morning people, and meaning that the kids and everyone either opened the presents on Christmas eve, that’s the day before, an evening before, or in the morning, the first thing.
And what would you put on top a tree?
Oh you put a big ornamental star at the top of the tree?
Yeah, a special… I just had a thought. So each family sometimes has their own traditions, their own Christmas traditions, well especially I guess in the UK and elsewhere. For instance my grandfather would make an ornament out of wood every Christmas for different family members.
Well not, yeah, I guess he would. They were small but it was still sweet. And when we got a cat he made one of a cat, so that was sweet.
Other people like to play games, some people play football or soccer. Yeah. Each family has their own tradition.
Like my family used to play Bingo.
You know, not a very Christmassy thing.
We had so much fun. But even though at some point it got boring, it was still you know, a family tradition and an opportunity to get together, so we still enjoyed it. Alright, so the decorations, tree, anything else that you could think of?
Oh, food! So Ben you have mentioned turkey, Gary you have mentioned well…
Yeah, for Christmas. I think it was the thing. Ideally. But then, but then the reality was…
What? Frozen food from Whole foods?
No. My parents were in business and they so.. You know, my mother didn’t really want to do too much, she was tired. And so we had spaghetti on New year’s eve, on Christmas eve, spaghetti, like, you know. And we were happy, we didn’t care. And then I think when I was little again my grandmother, I had a very traditional grandmother.
It was, you know, the kind of lady that loved to cook and loved to be in the kitchen and that was her thing. And she would… Her roast beef was really king shall we say, with no crowns, but still.
Dessert, so you’d have a Christmas pudding in the UK.
Is that the one you set on fire?
What is with this fire? What is business with this construction and…?
This is dangerous.. Man, we…
It’s soaked with alcohol, right?
It is, it’s soaked in brandy usually, so it burns. It’s really cool, I love it. But I think there’s usually a lot of accidents related to it.
So keep your pets away from the kitchen.
Depending on how much brandy went somewhere else before.
I’ve also… I don’t know if that’s a British thing or an American thing, but I could see a lot of people making traditional Christmas fruit cake? So I don’t know where exactly that has come from, but at some point I started making that every single year.
So the thing is that you bake it and then you pour some whiskey or rum or brandy onto it every week and then you leave it in some cold dry place. So and totally you have to spend from 2 to 6 weeks doing it. Now it’s my week 3. So I tried it today – oh god, it’s so good.
I mean the British Christmas pudding is kind of like a fruit cake but it’s slightly darker. I don’t know all the ingredients that go inside it but… What color is your fruit cake?
Yeah, our is really dark brown.
And then you have like really a lot of fruit and nuts in it.
I should look into that, maybe I should set mine on fire.
Only if it really doesn’t work out well. You can just say well, we’ll do it the English way this year. Не получилось, давайте мы...
Speaking of food, my favorite tradition is I’ve heard in Japan. Well I know they’re not religious a all, well, there are some Christians in Japan, but they… Everyone loves to go to KFC at Christmas time.
Oh! Now you’re talking! Now you’re talking something really not Christmas.
That’s what I’ve heard. It’s just a rumor, but apparently KFC is huge in Japan for Christmas.
So I can just imagine getting a big bucket of chicken wings for Christmas. And you were saying spaghetti, like, you know.
Right, that’s about the same. I’m not gonna looking down on any KFC.
It’s actually interesting if we think about Russians. I mean, I’m gonna switch between New Year and Christmas because New Year is kind of more important for us Russians.
But every year if you ask people what do you cook for the new year’s night or for Christmas, well, I don’t know if you have… Gary must’ve noticed, Ben, it’s ahead of you, but Russians are very superstitious, like ridiculously superstitious.
Oh I have read about this, yeah.
So and that’s why for new year the menu for new year’s night would depend on what kind of year that’s going to be by eastern zodiac thing. So you know, so for example this coming year is gonna be the year of the bull I think. Which means no beef on the table, cause that’s gonna anger the bull. So.
Everyone realizes that it’s dumb, but it’s so superstitious.
Oh no, think about it. You gotta think in a certain way.
At some point I have noticed that a lot of people started cooking turkey for Christmas, which is not a typically Russian thing.
Ah, because of the beef danger, you know, the bull.
Oh it’s every year. Then I don’t know. Someone else.
Maybe it’s just the influence of different films and tv shows because we see turkey there.
Was that the part of Home Alone?
I don’t think there was a turkey there. Maybe.
You have to watch it the 45th time you’ll remember. You’re not picking up all the details.
But don’t forget Gary that Home Alone has three parts.
I think it has four, it has four, the fourth one’s terrible.
I can’t even remember it because it was so bad.
And what’s the plot? Is the same? The same burglars?
The same kind of thing, with burglars, yeah.
Don’t mess with it, right. Let’s repeat the same thing, it worked.
It’s American way – if it works, we’ll give you more of it. You like it?
Do you know that there is actually a separate channel, one of them, that only shows Christmas movies. So and they are made every fortnight I think, so Christmas movie, a new one, every two weeks.
What, throughout the whole year?
Oh wow, that’s serious, yeah.
And I think if you look at the posters, they are all like green and red with a couple.
Something like that. So it’s basically the same plot, but different people and maybe different words, you know. But I’m not so sure.
You mean it’s the same movie.
No it’s not, but it feels like it’s the same, cause you can imagine.
It might feel the same yeah. Okay.
I feel like after a month of watching these it’ll feel like exactly the same movie being…
I’m sure it will. And it’s probably the desired effect, that’s what you want.
So and what about New Year? Do you celebrate? And is it typically celebrated?
Well, yeah, I mean, we put the news on and it has a big countdown and you watch the various of the cities across the world, celebrating with their fireworks.
I loved London fireworks by the way.
2014-2015 I was right, you know, I was in front of London Eye.
Oh cool, so you were on the south bank.
No wait. Which one is across the Thames?
Oh no the South Bank is on the Thames where the London Eye is.
I mean, I was on the opposite side from London eye, but I was facing it. That was the best location.
Yeah that’s it. So you were by the Big Ben and you saw the fireworks. That’s pretty cool.
That was the best New Year I’ve ever had. I was crying because I was so happy. Even…
What are the fireworks like here in Novosibirsk?
Yeah they’re boring ones.
But I thought the Russians took New Year’s very seriously.
Yeah well… I mean, think about it – compared… If we compare Novosibirsk to London, they’re boring, because, you know…
Our city cannot afford spending that much on fireworks. But usually there are a lot of people on the streets on the 31st of December closer to midnight, but not this year I’m afraid. I know that they are going to block the streets and have the police there so that there are no huge gatherings.
Yay! If that is your definition of fun you’re gonna love it here. Oh my. So yeah, I’m sorry for interrupting. So, new year.
New Year. Yes. Well one of the traditional thing that you do I mean if you’re not in… If you were young enough and in New York maybe you would go down to Times Square.
That sounds like the most horrible idea ever.
Times Square? That sounds cool.
Do you like crowds? Do you like a lot of people?
Do you know that usually on New Year’s eve it’s around one million people on Times Square? And you have… And the moment you enter the territory of Times Square, you cannot get out, and a detail that not many people think about. There are no toilets, not even portable ones. You have to spend up to six-seven hours there.
It’s another reason not to do that.
I had a roommate, I had a roommate from Japan and that was her lifetime dream. So she actually did that. I was like – how did you? It was so cold that year, it was one of the coldest winters in New York state and Massachusetts as well. And she was like I had layers and she was wearing a diaper, so she would not leave.
Mia, if you’re listening, I’m sorry for telling people this!
I guess, you know… I mean, just try it not wearing a diaper.
An unforgettable experience!
A lot of things what to compare it with, right, and so diaper compared to normal underclothing – not good. In most situations, but.
Well I know that people celebrate New Year, those who go to Times Square celebrate it on some, like, you know, the center of the city or something, watching the fireworks.
Right. Well I don’t even know… generally most American cities, well, except New York and maybe Chicago, big cities maybe, they have something equivalent, similar to Times Square. Something that people would go to. But a lot of cities wouldn’t, smaller cities.
So I spent a couple of years in Boston and we had fireworks there, but I don’t think many people came there, because that would mean you know, getting back home somehow and Uber prices would be ridiculous. And also last year it was way too cold to do that.
So I think they even cancelled the fireworks. I can’t remember but I think they did because it was too windy and too cold for people to go there and be there close to the ocean with very strong wind. So yeah.
What normal people did in the United States, most people you know, not on the coasts and not in big cities is they would just watch it on television. That was an a tradition, and some old people think. But people, whatever your age is, that’s..
When there is a countdown, so is there any speech after? Cause in Russia we have the president’s speech.
In the UK do you have the queen’s speech?
The queen’s speech, the new year speech, yeah. So it’s kind of like here in Russia you have новогоднее обращение, don’t you? But it’s kind of like that except it’s the queen. So she..
Right, right, right. So it’s not a lot like that, right. Just depends on how similar you think Vladimir Putin is to Queen of England. Each person individually…
Oh come on I’m so sure they say exactly the same thing – it’s been a rough year, next year is going to be better.
It’s a similar kind of thing, yeah.
We need to stay together. You know, support each other yada-yada-yada.
It’s very calming listening to the Queen because she has a very, yeah, a very calming voice, so it’s nice hearing her every year.
Alright so now that we’ve started talking about new year, I’m gonna tell you about different… I do not know whether it’s superstition or fortune telling, call it whatever you want.
But a lot of Russian do on New Year’s night… So while the clock is counting down from 12 to 0, 1, whatever, you need to take a piece of paper, write your wish on it, burn it, put the ash into a glass of champagne and drink it – all within 12 seconds.
And they say your dream will come true.
Has it ever come true for you?
I do a different thing and yes, it has. So what I do…
Okay so we don’t want things that don’t work, we want things that really work.
Okay. Exclusively for our listeners who listen…
We got the diaper on a Japanese roommate. We got Ben who’s watched Home Alone 44 times. Now and concluded…
I think Russians are way more superstitious than any other country in the world I think.
The best superstition is don’t whistle inside, so свистеть внутри нельзя.
I like that because it’s annoying when people whistle inside.
Yeah I remember one of my students did that and I cringed, I was like please don’t. They asked me why I was like are you ready for this lecture then? Do you really wanna know why? But yeah. So a lot of people, a lot of people do that. What are some other things that we do…
So what was your secret? You haven’t… She keeps turning back on us. Come on!
What I do every year is, don’t think I’m dumb or something. But I get 12 pieces of paper, I write a wish on each on them, but it should be something more or less realistic, so no ‘I wanna win a million dollars’ cause that’s probably not gonna happen.
12 realistic wishes, okay.
You can spend most of December trying to come up with 12 realistic wishes.
You know some people say it’s so easy to write 12, oh well.
Well I think it wouldn’t be.
Do so, I think it’s not. And then when you go to sleep, you put those 12 piece of paper under the pillow, you sleep on it. Then in the morning the first thing you do is, you know, you pick three of them. The first one you do, you pick, is the one that is most likely to come true.
The second one is like 50-50, the third one is unlikely to come true. And I was very skeptical about that, but it’s a thing that a lot of people in my family do for some reason. But then the first thing that I pick the first thin in the morning on January the 1st has come true for 5 years in a row now. So you tell me.
Well for example one year for some reason I really wanted to go China. I don’t know, I just really wanted to. But I was growing up in a poor family so that was very unlikely to happen, but then somehow my mom got some kind of a bonus so we actually did go to China that year in the summer.
Cool. Beijing or which part?
It was before, you know, the air quality..
Yeah, turn horrible. So I was lucky to see Beijing in all its glory with nice air without wearing a mask. So yeah. And I have a question to Gary first. And what about New year celebration here in Russia. So how do you usually spend the night? You’ve lived here for so long.
Well I have. And sometimes I have been invited over to people’s places. And then I did what some people do on new year’s eve, at least as far as I could tell. That or they were putting some kind of a show for me. But otherwise I don’t really make a big thing out of new year’s eve. Because new year’s is not a big thing for I’d say for Americans, I don’t know, for British?
I mean I was just in Vegas, spent new year in Vegas and it was crazy. I mean, it’s Vegas, so.
Yeah, it’s always…. Every day is like new year’s. But yeah, fireworks everywhere. And if you’re an owner… If you own a dog, it’s terrible because the dogs are terrified.
… of the fireworks, and you just hear all these fireworks and barking and drunk people.
Like, if you haven’t mentioned the fireworks, that would sound like a typical Vegas day, you know.
Right, the dogs and the drunks – that’s everyday.
Vegas is a fun place. But don’t bring your children there.
There’s not much to do if you bring children there. So wait, and what about your new year plans this year?
I just wanna talk around town, but I guess the police will get a little bit grumpy.
I mean you alone is not a huge gathering. How many personalities do you have?
Ben and his multiple personality problem arrested 4 times. For meeting with himself, standing alone in the corner.
But yeah. Do you live anywhere close to the center?
Well I live just 10 minutes down the road, so улица Фрунзе.
So you’d have no problem actually walking to the center and see what it’s like.
What about you Gary? Where do you live?
I live not far from the center.
But a different direction. I could walk to the center without any problem, I don’t think I will but I could.
It’s actually interesting cause when I ask people from the US or from the UK or different countries about Christmas, they say it’s a family holiday. Then when they ask me about New year I do not know what to say usually, because then in here it depends on a person.
So some people have new year as a family holiday, so they spend it together with their family. Others prefer to go out, to go clubbing, something like that. Some people combine, so they spend some time with their family, until 1am, and then they go clubbing. But that’s not important this year cause nothing’s gonna work. Yay.
Right. So I’ll look like the man, the world has finally caught up with me through a пандемия, right.
And do you ever make new year resolutions?
I make resolutions, or decisions, or whatever or things like resolutions but not necessarily at new year’s. Not particularly at new year’s.
Why do you think people actually make those?
I guess perhaps the start of the year is a… I guess, it’s more like a format, there’s more of a structure to how your resolution will play out. So I guess it’s a good idea to do that at the start of the year.
New year, new life, new me!
Exactly. New-born you, so.
Not really. I guess this year maybe let’s make my Russian really good, let’s try do that, that will be a good resolution.
That’s a realistic resolution.
See what happens with that.
No, it’s a great time for doing it.
It makes sense and I do too. It’s just, I can’t say that I specifically make more resolutions or whatever but it’s perfect time, because everything changes, right?
Usually after New year’s, at least in the UK, you have sober January, so nobody drinks in January. So a lot of people who get really drunk then set out to not drink for the whole month. A lot of people fail, especially in England, yeah.
Well, you don’t even know what failure is until you get an education in failure. Prepare yourself. Joking joking.
What do we think about this year? 2020. So how has that treated you so far? So let’s remember good and bad that has happened to you this year.
Well I’m here in Novosibirsk, that’s a great thing.
Life-changing decision has been made!
Well I started the year off working at a hotel in Vegas and then all of a sudden the covid pandemic struck and obviously the hotels in Vegas suffered a bit, so the whole has been a big game-changer I’d say, so reviewing your life, seeing what works, what doesn’t work, so. So yeah, it’s been a big one.
Well, it’s been a year. I would say it’s been a year. No, it’s been a difficult year in some ways for everybody. And I’ll put myself in that group. I was glad I was able to go home, I was able to go to the United states and see my mother, take care of some business. In February, before it all.
Yeah, before it all went wrong. And so I was thankful for that, because after that that would’ve been rather difficult to do the same thing.
I don’t think you would be able to do that.
So anyway, so I’m thankful for that. And you know, generally my family, my small family and people that I care about generally have done pretty well and I’m thankful for that. And so generally it was good, given everything I’d say, you know.
Fair enough, fair enough. Okay, thank you so much! Alright, so that was BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed Christmas and New year. We talked about the history of Christmas, Christmas traditions in the US and in the UK. We talked about new year traditions in Russia.
We talked about food, new year’s resolutions, celebrations and so on. So alright, thank you for listening and remember, if you struggle to understand our conversation you are always welcome to our website which is BigAppleSchool.com/podcast where you can find full scripts of each episode.
And you can read it while listening. Cool, right? Also if you want to get more content which will help you learn English, you can follow us on social media such as Instagram, VK, Facebook, Youtube, Telegram and so on by searching our name, which is again BigAppleSchool. So that was Katya and my guests for today were….
Stay tuned and we’ll see you around.