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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Giving Kids Christmas Becomes Balancing Act




One week to go until Christmas and the panic has set in.


Unlike many foreigners who are sensibly flying home to let someone else organize their Christmas for them, I'm staying here and battling against staggering odds to try and have a traditional English Christmas for the kids in Moscow. I know it's a bit late to start worrying about all this but do any of you know where to get vital ingredients like plum pudding, mince pies, Stilton, port and crackers (not to mention holly and mistletoe) in a country that goes in for champagne and fireworks at this time of year? I might just about manage the turkey in a pinch but otherwise I'm completely stumped.


"Why bother?" one of my English friends said to me during one of my panic attacks to her on the phone. "Forget Christmas. I am. I'll be tucking into pot noodles in the office as usual. Just don't tell the kids it's Christmas and they'll never know."


I have to say it was tempting, although I think they'd start suspecting they'd missed out on something come New Year.


Western Christmas is certainly a major nonevent in Russia and since the children are in an exclusively Russian environment it would be easy to ignore it. In fact I've just discovered to my horror that the school and kindergarten are planning their end-of-year New Year celebrations on - you guessed it - Christmas Day. Since the children have been looking forward to this prazdnik for weeks and I'm planning to have Christmas way out of town at the dacha I had to charge in to school and start pulling my hair out in despair. Luckily, as it's a private school with only 24 children (three of whom are mine) they agreed to change the date to Christmas Eve.


Phew! So now Christmas is definitely on and, looking on the bright side, there are advantages to having it here. The snow for one. Back in England we'd probably be looking out onto the drizzle over our Brussels sprouts but here there's snow, snow and more snow. Moreover, one of the children's traditional Christmas treats is to have a banya, or sauna, and then run out and roll naked in the snow, which isn't something you'd see us doing in Wimbledon. The kids also have the advantage of getting presents from both Father Christmas at home and Dyed Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, at school, which takes a bit of explaining but I seem to have got away with it.


Christmas is always a time of spending, but I manage to part with about twice as much money here as I would back in England. My eldest daughter, for example, wanted a pair of skates, but having trekked round four sports shops the only pair we found in her size cost more than $100. As I stood staring at them in dismay, she suddenly brightened up: "Don't worry mommy, you don't have to get them for me - I'll ask Father Christmas!"