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Bez Dollarov
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On The Dacha
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Surviving Army Life
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Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
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Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
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Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
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Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
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Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, November 24, 1998

Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays

Happy Birthday from Moscow!

November 24, 1998, The Moscow Times

Etiquette, Eloquence, of Birthday Festivites

By Nick Allen

Few events in Russia are imbibed with as much energy and good cheer as the round-the-table celebration of a den' rozhdeniya (birthday). And should you he invited to a birthday party, it's a good idea to be a little prepared in advance.

Flowers are always given to the imeninnitsa, or birthday girl. Not that Russian men are too macho to appreciate such a gesture from female guests, but a buket (bouquet) for the imeninnik should be less fancy. In either case, don't forget that there should be an odd number of flowers, since an even number is usually only seen at a funeral.

Birthday cards are not obligatory, but if you do give one, it is not enough to just write S dnyom rozhdeniya (Happy Birthday). Russians tend to go for lengthy sentiments like "Zhelayu tebe schast'ya, zdorov'ya I lyubvi" ("Wishing you happiness, health and love"), or, to girls, "Zhelayu tebe vsegda ostavat'sya takoi zhe miloi i krasivoi," ("May you always be so sweet and beautiful").

Russians still do not generally wrap presents in podarochnaya bumaga (wrapping paper), probably because for many years it was largely unavailable. Nowadays gift wrapping has become more fashionable, but sometimes the point is still missed. I recently bought a tankard for a beerloving friend on his birthday, and when I asked the assistant to Zavernite, pozhaluista (Wrap it up please) using patterned paper rather than the transparent wrapping first offered, my Russian friend pointed out in puzzlement: "But he won't be able to see what's inside if you use that stuff."

Guests are generally invited to arrive at the party as early as 5 pm, not because they are expected to go home early, but because birthdays are generally very, very long affairs. When everyone is finally gathered za stolom (around the table) and busy filling their plates, the first toast will be made. As a rule, toasts follow the formula Davaite vypem za. (Lets drink to ... ), If an action or process is indicated, a subjunctive construction must be used, simply formed by using the word chtoby and the past tense of the verb: Davaite vyp'em za to, chtoby Lena u nas ostavalas'takoi zhe zamechatel'noi ("Lets drink to our Lena always being so wonderful").

The first toast may well be za vinovnika torzhestva (to the "culprit" of the celebration). And as they say, mezhdu pervoi i vtoroi pereryvchik nebolkhoi, (between the first and second, the break is not a long one), it will soon be time once again for someone to praiznesti tost (make a toast). The second or third is often za roditelei (to our parents), and from thereon after, free rein is given to the imagination, producing such offerings as: Davaite vypem, chloby u nashikh date byli bogatye roditeli, (May our children hive rich parents), or simply, and always a winner, "Za lyubov"' (to love).

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