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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tree Trinkets & History

For MT
Beyond being a marketing ploy to attract customers before the holidays, the Mega malls' "Fond Childhood Memories" exhibition of vintage Christmas and New Year's ornaments provides a fascinating look at Russian history.

Peter the Great introduced the New Year's tree tradition to Russia in 1699, but at first the trees stood bare. The custom of placing ornaments on the branches didn't take off until the 1860s, when bonbons, chocolates, gingerbread and biscuits were used.

In the 1880s, more conventional papier-mache, cardboard and cotton wool Christmas tree ornaments appeared in local stores from Germany, Austria and France, and finally reached the branches of Russian yolki, or fir trees.

After Lenin's death in 1924, the festive trees were banned as symbols of a bourgeois and religious holiday, but in 1936 the trees and ornaments made a comeback.

Although the designs were reminiscent of those in pre-revolutionary days, the new ornaments increasingly incorporated Soviet symbols such as pioneers, Red Army soldiers, hammers and sickles, and portraits of Lenin and Stalin. As the country went on a military bend during World War II, the factories began churning out ornamental tanks and airplanes.

After the horror of the war, people turned to home comforts and fairy tales, and again the ornaments reflected the trend. Characters from folk tales, poems and Soviet children's classics were duly produced in time for the New Year.

Historian and toy collector Sergei Romanov said Soviet New Year's ornaments differed from foreign Christmas ones. "For example, Germany doesn't have these larger-than-life symbols," he said. "Life is stable there. But the ups and downs in Russian history have been illustriously reflected in the ornaments' themes."

Mega Khimki is exhibiting American collector Kim Balaschak's collection of more than 2,000 pieces, several dating to the 1890s. Russian collectors Alla Novikova and Yelena Balashova have brought together their efforts -- and collections -- in Mega Tyoply Stan, while Mega Belaya Dacha is showcasing the ornaments of collector Sergei Beloglazov.

At Mega malls from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Jan. 15. Free. www.megamall.ru