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Chava Berman Borowsky

The Origins of Novy God

Ded Moroz, the Russian Santa Claus. (via Facebook)

An unmistakable blunder of the Jewish communities in Galus is the desire to correlate and compete with the festivities of other nations instead of imbuing within their children a genuine pride of their own traditions. Different ethnicities and religions each have their own holidays and customs and there is no good reason to compete with or imitate traditions that are foreign to Judaism.

Regrettably, there are many families who put up Christmas trees justifying that it’s an “enjoyable custom” without really comprehending that over time this is how assimilation and syncretism develops and that subsequently children will invariably be uncertain and perplexed about what each custom and holiday represents.

For what reason should we adorn the outside of our entire house with lights on Channukah?

For what reason should we exchange expensive gifts and even put them under the Menorah table?

For what reason should we imitate Christmas pajamas and compete with blue and silver Channukah pajamas?

Why are we doing this? Is it that our own traditions do not satisfy us so that we have to fill the void with customs from other religions?

It is incumbent upon us to instill respect for the diversity of other cultures, but not at the expense  of our own exquisite traditions. We need to convey to our children that other ethnicities and religions each have their own beliefs and customs just as we unapologetically also have our own and that it’s not a bad thing for each nation to retain their exclusive identity through observing their people’s practices, rituals, and ceremonies.

Unfortunately this custom is now widespread in Israel where mostly Russian and Argentinian families put up Christmas trees, and some Russian families will even go further with celebrating Novy God, the New Year, naming their decorated evergreen pine tree the  Novy God Tree  not really comprehending that this name evolved during the time period of the former Soviet Union where religion was banned and so therefore Russians looked for a new way of continuing to celebrate the Christmas holidays by camouflaging and masking the theological origins.

It is undeniably the same celebration considering that they even have a Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whom they call Ded Moroz. Through celebrating Christmas in this concealed way the Russian nation was able to commemorate part of their traditions.

We must be careful with what we transmit to our children.

About the Author
Chava Berman Borowsky grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an Orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in 2008 and has since lived in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Holon, and Ashdod. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, painting, and writing.
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