from Stella May When I was a child, December 31st was the happiest and most anticipated day of the year. You see, in my old country, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even know what Christmas was. Instead, we celebrated New Year. How come? Well, I was born in the former USSR, the communist country, where Christmas as a religious holiday was banned since 1928. (I think they reinstated it in 1991, but I am not positive.) But, back to my story. As sad as it may seem to you, our New Years were festive, and happy. We decorated our flats with an abandon. A fresh pine tree was a must. I still remember how it smelled—fresh and green like hope. And, oh God, the decorations! Hand-made, or store bought, and the garlands… We had our own version of Santa Claus—Ded Moroz, who had his lovely granddaughter, Snegurochka. Oh, the New Years of my childhood! It was pure joy, and expectation of something wonderful, and magic rolled into one. The smell of tangerines permeated the air. Those little orange delights were an absolute necessary attribute of any New Year’s celebration–- even more than champagne. My mom slaved in the kitchen for days to put the biggest and most scrumptious meal on the table. And the most favorite dish of all? Olivier Salad, of course. (Look for the recipe in December on this blog.) It was, and still is, a synonym of New Year. Then, on the big day, we would put our best china and gather around the table for dinner. For children, it was the biggest thrill, because only on New Year’s Eve we were allowed to stay up all night, eat sweets, and watch TV until we dropped. And only the children received presents. Mostly, it was sweets, fruit, books, and an occasional toy— nothing the modern children would consider a ‘present’, especially a Christmas present. But we were waiting for those special presents all year and treasured them immensely. To us, they were precious. They represented something special–New Year. No one wrapped our presents simply because we didn’t have any wrapping paper. I remember my mom used cellophane and some ribbons to make our presents a little more festive. I remember how she would hide these funny-looking bundles from us, and how happy she was when she’d manage to transfer them in the middle of the night under the tree, and then looked surprised when we find them in the morning. But most of all, I remember the feeling of absolute and total happiness. Oh, what a joy it was, that magical New Year’s night! The exhilaration, anticipation, celebration! I remember everything so vividly like it was yesterday, and my heart breaks a little each and every time. In my family we keep the tradition and celebrate New Year’s in a big way. Now I am slaving in the kitchen, using my mother’s recipes to put on a celebratory dinner. And every year, there are tangerines, champagne, and Olivier Salad. And presents? There will be plenty of presents for everyone— not only for children. And they will be wrapped in a pretty paper, and adorned with festive ribbons and bows. Just in a little over a month, we will sit around the table, and raise our glasses to toast 2022, wishing for health and happiness, peace and prosperity. May this coming year be kind to everybody. Stay safe and healthy, love each other, care for your loved ones, and always keep a positive attitude. Happy New Year, or as we said in Russia, с Новым Годом! Stella Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website. Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors. When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business. Follow Stella on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.