Happy Old-New Year! Today, marks the end of the Russian holiday cycle and although it’s not a red day on the calendar, it is still widely celebrated across Russia.
Russia celebrates two New Year’s days, one on January 1st for the Gregorian calendar which was adopted in 1918, shortly after the Russian Revolution and the second on Jan 14 for the Julian Calendar, which Orthodox churches still use. So today is New Year’s day on the old calendar, affectionately referred to as. . . the Old-New Year.
A favorite Old-New Year tradition is eating homemade dumplings, called var-EN-iki. Besides the usual filling of mashed potatoes or cottage cheese and raisins, hidden in these holiday vareniki are surprises that tell a fortune, or so goes the legend.
Above, dear sisters in our congregation make 300 vareniki for another recent holiday. The ladies spent most of Saturday making the dough, mashing potatoes, rolling out, filling, trimming, crimping edges and getting those little varniki into the freezer. Served topped with sauted onions and sour cream, oh were they delicious.
And so it was that shortly after our vareniki binge, I was checking out the vareniki bins at the local up-scale supermarket. This nice young lady was happy to be the vareniki model. She's good! I asked if these might have surprises hidden in them for the Old-New Year. She wasn't sure. . .
But Mrs Vareniki did some searching there in the frozen food section and, voila, found packaged, frozen vareniki - with surprises! The text on the lower left in red says, You know what you've been waiting for the New Year!!! For vareniki with surprises! Then are listed the surprises and the legend: Find a kidney bean in your varniki, and you’ll have plenty of money. Extra sugar predicts a sweet life. Salt means that you’ll have to work by the sweat of your brow. Extra pepper says your year will be thrilling and a pea points to travels.
Vareniki are in the closest bin and the third one. The other two bins are pelmeni -- pel-MAIN-ee -- filled with meat.
How about you? Does your family have special, fun traditions for forecasting the new year? Do you have any traditional ethnic foods in your family, probably labor-intensive? Okay, do you just buy any of this stuff in convenience form from the supermarket?