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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Winter Party Comes to a Close

Ded Moroz statues are still collecting letters in their boxes, bedraggled New Year's trees are still everywhere and most of the ice sculptures at Pushkin Square are more or less intact - but the holiday season came to a bleary-eyed end Monday as Moscow businesses and their employees crawled back to work after the long holiday vacation.

Monday was the first day many had seen the inside of their offices since the previous millennium. Of course, since many were given the time off without pay, it was a mixed blessing.

Most workplaces closed for four days over New Year, with another three days off for Orthodox Christmas, which falls on Jan. 7. Technically Wednesday and Thursday were working days last week - but few returned to their offices. With many foreign companies also taking time off for Western Christmas on Dec. 25, it meant that some companies had barely worked for nearly three weeks.

But that's not all. One more holiday remains for those with energy left, as Russia celebrates Old New Year, which falls on Jan. 14 according to the Julian calendar.

It's not a public holiday, but Russian television channels will be counting in the Old New Year on Thursday evening, and, for those who haven't had enough alcohol over New Year's and Christmas, it's an excuse to imbibe enough to tide them over until the next official drinking holiday, the Day of the Defenders of the Fatherland, formerly Soviet Army and Navy Day, on Feb. 23.

Russia has two New Years thanks to the Bolshevik government, which lopped 13 days off the calendar when it switched to the Gregorian calendar used by the rest of the world in 1918.

The end of the vacation means newspapers have reappeared after taking a long extended break over the holiday period. Several of them re-emerged from hibernation last week to report the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin, but then disappeared again for Christmas.

Yet, newspapers or not, something always seems to happen on New Year's. In 1992, the government ended price controls, in 1995, the Russian army attacked Grozny. The sudden resignation of Yeltsin on New Year's Eve meant that dozens of disgruntled journalists were drafted in last week to write up the biggest story in the country - five days after it had happened. Most papers returned to regular schedules Monday.

Russian newspapers' political cousins on television, Nikolai Svanidze's "Zerkalo" on RTR and "The Sergei Dorenko Show" on ORT, only return Sunday, Jan. 16. Even television's favorite ambulance chasers, "Dorozhny Patrul" - which usually rounds up Moscow's murders, car crashes and drug busts on a daily basis, took a break and showed four- and five-day-old mayhem Sunday night.

At the U. S. Embassy on the Garden Ring, the return to a working regime was a big headache for visa applicants at the embassy's consular offices after a near three-week break.

When the doors opened at 8 a.m. Monday morning, there was already a long line of people, some of whom had been waiting since 11 p.m. the night before.

Apparently, the only millennium technical glitch to hit Russia so far was the non-appearance of the world's largest Christmas tree. The Moscow city government had planned to deck the 540-meter Ostankino television tower with bows of holly, but they forgot to ask permission in time.

"We were upset," said a presswoman somewhere up in the tower. "But we'll try to do it next year."

And that may be the right time for it, after all. According to a stern memo sent out by the Russian State Standards Committee, the new century doesn't start until Jan. 1, 2001. It's an easy mistake to make - according to the committee, even Peter the Great made it in 1700. But it's likely no one sent him a memo about it.