WE SPENT THREE Christmases in Moscow in the years 2005-2007, although Russians officially observe Christmas day on 7th January. (An article in the December 2007 Aeroflot in-flight magazine explained: “The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar invented in ancient Rome and the state follows the more modern and widely adopted Gregorian one. According to the Julian calendar, Christmas falls on the Gregorian January 7 and New Year begins on January 14.”)
While I don’t have photos taken of 25th Dec 2005 in Moscow, I vividly recall in our first year there, we went to MEGA mall, a shopping chain operated by IKEA. We used to spend a lot of our weekends there to shop (there are more than 150 stores) and do our grocery at adjacent French-chain Ashan, which was the first hypermarket to open in Moscow in 2002.
On that fateful day, we arrived at Ashan by 9am (after some 45 mins slow drive on snow-cleared roads) and we couldn’t believe the crowded outdoor parking lot. Getting a parking spot was one thing, getting a shopping cart was another. Waiting out in the cold temperature of -10°C for some 15 minutes just to get a cart was no laughing matter. We were in for another shock when we entered Ashan to see a sea of people, doing their Christmas and new year shopping. We joined in the crowd nevertheless, sandwiched with burly people in bulky winter clothing, and got elbowed at times in narrow aisles. After an hour of trying to shop as quickly as we could, we headed towards check-out only to come face to face with a wall of stagnant queue waiting to pay! A quick scan around and we realised the scenario was the same at all check-out counters. Tired and hungry, we abandoned our cart and headed for lunch instead, vowing to learn from this lesson.
We DID return to MEGA mall the following year in 2006, but we stayed away from Ashan for sure! In 2007, we stayed away completely and went for a drive in town instead!