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Soviet era ornaments from the collection of Maria GoncharovaС новым счастьем! (With a New Happiness!)
Russian Holiday Tree Traditions & Soviet New Year’s Ornaments

A tree lighting & talk by Masha Goncharova from St. Petersburg, Russia, with tea and refreshments

Saturday, December 7, 3:00 pm, Free with admission, RSVP by calling the Museum: 978.598.5000, or email info@museumofrussianicons.org

Join us for the first glimpse of a traditional Russian New Year’s tree, decorated by designer Masha Goncharova. Masha will give a talk about unusual ornaments from Russia, and demonstrate how to decorate your own holiday tree the Russian way. Traditional Russian tea and assorted sweets reminiscent of the USSR New Year’s holidays will be served.

Masha Goncharova’s family collection of Christmas and New Year’s tree ornaments have been assembled over more than twenty years and consists of thousands of examples made of glass, cardboard, plastic, and other materials, plus glass and papier-mâché figures, beads, garlands, flags, aluminum “rain,” and various accessories that span a 150-year period. In addition to factory produced items, the collection includes unique decorations made every year by their family and friends.

The tradition of decorating a pine tree for Christmas originated in Germany in the late Middle Ages and had a deeply symbolic meaning of connecting Paganism, Christianity, abundance, prosperity, and gift-giving. At first, various fruits, nuts, ribbons, sweets, and pastries were used to decorate the holiday tree. They were gradually replaced by glass-blown ornaments made by small German workshops. In the 19th century, the tradition spread throughout Europe, including Imperial Russia where numerous workshops produced Christmas ornaments. They initially copied traditional German examples, but later came up with their own unique designs.

After the Communist revolution of 1917, the celebration of the Christmas holiday was strictly forbidden, and the “Christmas tree” disappeared for five seasons. But it was eventually reborn as a government-endorsed “New Year’s tree” removed from the religious connotation of Christ’s birth. The New Year’s tree was a bright and positive spot even in the darkest times of Soviet history. The fond memories of decorating it became an essential part of a cultural tradition for several generations of the Russian people.

In Soviet Russia, the New Year’s Day holiday was the most eagerly-awaited and universally beloved, always bringing with it the hope of renewal and a better tomorrow. In the atmosphere of state-control over any creative activity, holiday tree ornaments represented an escape into the magical world fairy tales with its eternal human dream of miracles, happiness, and beauty.


Maria (Masha) Goncharova is a designer, interior decorator, gallerist, curator, and collector based in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has designed interiors for private homes, public spaces, exhibitions, and galleries in Russia, Great Britain, and France. Her specialty is designing interior spaces for private and public collections.

Goncharova was the owner and director of The Ultramarine, a boutique private school for interior design and decoration in St. Petersburg. Goncharova’s work has been featured in numerous publications including AD (Architecture & Design), Interior + Design, Mezonin, and Vogue Russia. She is also the proprietor and main designer of the P.S.–jewelry and accessories brand.

She is the curator, designer, and owner of the gallery Studio of Masha Goncharova, which has hosted over thirty thematic, group, and solo exhibitions. The gallery represents contemporary artists, jewelers, and object designers including Alexander and Olga Florensky, Tanya Sergeeva, and Anna Fanigina (VERBA), and offers a range of hand-selected antiques, historic ornament, and textiles from Europe, Russia, and Asia. The gallery is included in a list of unique definitive local places to visit by a British travel guide “Define Fine Saint Petersburg.”

For eight years, Masha has designed and curated themed merchandise for the State Russian Museum’s shops such as the very successful “Bears and the Russian Avant-Garde,” including the internationally known Malevich Bear that was also retailed by the Guggenheim Museum’s shop in New York.

Masha is an enthusiastic collector of antique decorative arts objects, including historic French mirrors, objects related to Orthodox Easter, and Christmas decorations, which she frequently includes in her exhibition and interior designs.

Check out Masha’s Instagram account here.

The tree lighting and tea with Masha events are sponsored by the RussianStore.com, an online purveyor of antique Russian icons and religious artifacts.