Winter Holidays Break Vocabulary

When I lived in Russia and worked for a relatively large international company, I had to explain to my colleagues every year that they should not plan any business in Russia from December 24 to January 14 because of the winter holidays, both official and unofficial. This year, the official holidays in Russia last from January 1 to January 8, with most companies and organizations closed from December 30 to January 10, and the week before that was mostly for parties and celebrating the New Year with colleagues (see корпоратив). 

I don’t know if you have a chance to take a week or two off for the winter holidays, but here are some words that describe what people do during those lazy days at the beginning of the year (besides eating and drinking what’s left over from the lavish New Year’s meal).

First of all, this time of the year is perfect for getting as much sleep as you need. There is a special word for this in Russian – выспаться. You can say “Я выспался” (m) or “Я выспалась” (f) when you wake up because you want to, not because your alarm clock says so, and you feel totally refreshed and do not want to sleep anymore. 

For many people, December is one of the most stressful months of the year. Students have their midterms, retailers have to deal with the holiday shopping madness, many companies are preparing their annual reports, and everyone can’t wait for the holidays to come and end it all. This is why many people want to восстановиться , to rehabilitate, to recharge their batteries, during the slow first week of January. 

What do people do to get to восстановиться? Well, if going to a ski resort is not an option, then you can just гулять, walk (and the risk of breaking a leg or a spine when you гуляешь is a bit lower than when you ski in the mountains).

You can go to a spa and расслабиться, relax. I always расслабляюсь in a sauna. I don’t have a real steam bath house here in southern Ontario, but even a little IR sauna works magic for me. 

What I like most about the post-holiday sleepy time is that I don’t need to cook for about a week, because we have enough остатки, leftovers, in our fridge. I don’t know why Russians cook so much food for New Year’s Eve, but it’s good to take a break from cooking for a few days. 

If you run out of leftovers and the holidays are not over yet, go в гости, see or visit friends and family. They might still have something and will offer you угощение, a treat (just kidding).

Let’s take a closer look at the last two words. Гость means guest in Russian. If you are going to visit your family or friends, it is called идти в гости (direction, destination, to). And while you are visiting them, you are в гостях (place, at). These are fixed expressions and are very common in Russian. Угощение is what hosts put on the table when you come to visit them, or, in general, any kind of treat that people give each other. The act of staying in a place as a guest is гостить, hence гостиница, hotel.

When you visit your Russian friends, don’t forget to bring something – a bottle of good wine, a delicious cake, something. It is bad manners to show up empty-handed. And if you visit them during the New Year holidays, it may be a good idea to bring a small подарок, gift, too.

Whatever we do during the first week of the year, we should try to зарядиться (as in recharge your battery – as much as I hate this stupid cliché), because there is a whole year ahead of us, and it is better to return to work with energy and some good memories from week 1. And I wish you exactly that. 

Don’t forget to download the vocabulary list and work with the words you learned today! 

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