The main holiday in pre-revolutionary Russia was not New Year, but Christmas. It was established to meet with the closest and dearest people. And the imperial family also had their own Christmas traditions… Each of the members the Romanov family there was a Christmas tree under which they put gifts, and sometimes these gifts were very unexpected …
The tradition of celebrating Christmas took shape in the Winter Palace in the second half of the 18th century: it all began with an all-night service in the small palace church, only the imperial couple and their children were present at the service. After the service, they went to the Golden Living Room, in which gifts were awaited for each of the family members near the Christmas trees on special tables. Nurses and educators were also invited to the Christmas tree. Christmas trees were also staged in the Concert Hall and the Rotunda.
Even Peter I introduced the tradition of decorating the house with fir branches for the New Year and Christmas, and the wife of Nicholas I, Alexandra Feodorovna, introduced the custom of decorating Christmas trees. As a German princess, from childhood she followed this tradition, which was widespread in Germany at that time, and these features of the celebration took root in the imperial court. Christmas trees and gifts were mandatory attributes of Christmas, not New Year. Under Nicholas I, the Christmas tree in the Winter Palace became an enduring tradition. Gradually, the custom of decorating Christmas trees spread among the aristocratic circles, and then among the townspeople.
Gifts were prepared well in advance. Nicholas I loved to personally choose them for each family member. Children were usually given toys and sweets. For the parents, the children themselves bought gifts for their own pocket money. The most original gift from Nicholas I to his daughter, Princess Alexandra, was the groom tied to the tree - in 1843, shortly before the holidays, he arrived in St. Petersburg. Parents hid it from their daughter, and presented it as a gift for the holiday. Her sister, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, was presented with a Wirth grand piano, a painting, elegant dresses and a sapphire bracelet.
Alexander II continued the tradition. Even when the family was separated, Christmas trees were held in the Winter Palace. So, in 1864, the seriously ill heir Nikolai was abroad with his mother. The Empress had prepared in advance for all the gifts that were handed over according to her written instructions. And in Nice for her dying son, Maria Alexandrovna dressed up an unusual "Christmas tree" - instead of toys on the orange tree, there were photographs of all family members who were not around.
Under Alexander III, there was no opportunity to personally choose gifts from members of the royal family - due to the wave of terrorism in the 1870-1880s. Samples of gifts were sent from the shops to the palace, and the right ones were chosen from them. The Empress gave her husband a revolver, and her sons an English knife, and the next day she personally presented gifts to soldiers and Cossacks. The courtiers, acquaintances and all household inhabitants - servants, grooms, gardeners, educators - were gifted. They arranged Christmas trees for poor children, and after the outbreak of the First World War - holidays for the wounded.
Since 1904, winter holidays have been celebrated in the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Christmas traditions continued at court until 1917, when the imperial family celebrated their last Christmas. By decision of the Provisional Government, the royal family was sent to Tobolsk.
There were no decorations on the tree - only silver rain and wax church candles.During the service, the priest proclaimed many years to the royal family, which led to a scandal and a tightening of the protection regime of the Romanovs. They had just over six months to live.
A 20 old postcards our great-grandmothers sent for Christmas, will talk about another festive tradition
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