New Years in Kyrgyzstan is THE holiday. Since Christmas is not widely celebrated here, all energy is focused on the New Year. And they don’t let the lack of Christmas prevent them from having tinseled trees and even Santa Clause (though he wears blue here instead of red).
Many of my fellow PCVs are traveling for the holiday but having learned a lesson from my time in Germany when I went off to Paris and Italy for the holidays I have opted to stay right here in Talas and experience this holiday in as local a fashion as possible.
My friend Samantha and her family graciously invited me to their home for New Years dinner and celebrations. For this I am very thankful but I will tell you, it was an eventless evening. As you can see from the photos here, the table was fully decked and we ate quite well. But the whole time I was there I only met Samantha’s mother. Her dad, 2 brothers and sister were all in the house but they stayed boarded up in their rooms and didn’t even come out to greet me. Very untypical in Kyrgyzstan. Even the mother only came and checked on Samantha and I a few times, refilling our tea and twice sitting with us for a few minutes. So all that food was just intended for Samantha and I. Insane!
We fell asleep around 10pm due to lack of activity and our alarms woke us up in time to pop a bottle of champagne and ring in the new year. After 1 glass, it was back to bed. In the morning I awoke and was off. Happy New Year! Not the party I was expecting, but appreciative just the same for the experience.
One explanation for the quite evening might be that for the previous 2 weeks the entire city had been alive with parties. Literally every cafe in the city was fully booked every night with private parties. By the time Jan 1 rolled around, most people were probably ready just to be finished with it.
Another highlight I should mention is my appearance on national television with two other PCVs and my Russian teacher. The station wanted to show foreigners celebrating the holiday in Kyrgyzstan. They came to my house a week before New Years and we staged a moch party. The program producers brought food and all the decorations, which was funny because we had to stop them from decorating and tell them that this was not the way Americans celebrate New Years. There should be no “Christmas Tree,” the food was all wrong, the fact that we were only four people at home cooking and not out at a huge party or a bar already was breaking all of our New Years rules. This confused and disappointed the producers but we found a great compromise: The video would show us, as foreigners, celebrating New Years in Kyrgyzstan according to Kyrgyz tradition, but in the interviews we would discuss how we celebrate at home. They even used photos from us at past New Years.
Without further adieu, here is the video: