“The way you greet the New Year is an omen for your entire year” — Traditional Russian proverb
New Year’s Eve comes but once a year – unless you joined us for the Russian ‘Old New Year Gala Dinner’ held on 14 January 2008, at London’s iconic venue the Guildhall! A spectacular venue for the evening, Guildhall has been a centre of pageantry, colour and ceremony for over 800 years and afforded the evening an exquisite traditional look of festive twinkle and architectural delight.
“Thank you very much your Excellence and Friends! I am delighted to be here this evening and I wish my fellow members of Parliament could have joined us. On this magnificent occasion can I wish you all a very happy New Year! Thank you very much!” — Mr Keith Vaz, MP
The tradition of celebrating Russian ‘Old New Year’ comes from the old calendar used in Russia prior to the Revolution. The dinner, held as close to this time as possible and in conjunction with the annual Russian Winter Festival that takes place to an audience of over 80,000 people the nearest weekend on Trafalgar Square, brought the rich legacy of Russian culture and cuisine into the spotlight. A star-studded evening of entertainment featuring the participation of celebrities, leading representatives from the Russian and British business community and key players from Government, media and the arts provided the ideal opportunity to combine business with pleasure.
“My Dear Ladies and Gentlemen. We have gathered together in this fine hall to celebrate New Year. Throughout the history of this earth love has always held great value – love of a man and a woman, love of friends, love of one’s work, love of one’s homeland..So let’s drink to the music of love, life and huge hope for the year to come!” — Mr Vasily Lanovoj, Russian actor
Guests enjoyed an hour long performance from the Russian National Dance Show Kostroma who performed a compilation of their two hour show of tear-jerking beauty that had been debuted in London the previous Saturday at the Hammersmith Apollo. Masters of classical dance and incorporating a humourous take on Russian culture, both old and new, Kostromaagain proved that they are top of their game. Guests were then treated to an exotic display of national costume and Buryat artistic tradition, with a stunning performance from the Buryat National Ensemble Baikal, before the mid-Russian folk ensemble Slavanye, formed under the direction of Nadezhda Babkina, one of Russia’s biggest variety performers, took to the hall singing their charismatic and energetic rendition of Russian folk numbers, both up-tempo and modern.
“It is my great pleasure to have an opportunity to congratulate everyone present with the Old Russian New Year and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year on behalf of “Russkiy Mir”, the foundation for Russian language and culture. The challenges of Russian language and culture, of course, do not come from the United Kingdom; they are inside the Russian Federation. And so our mission, as we see it, is to promote it here as well. Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!” — Mr Vyacheslav Nikonov, the Chairman of the “Russian Mir”
Guests sampled a banquet of smoked salmon and sturgeon with warm blinis keta caviar and sour cream; gruyere soufflé in a rich jersey cream and chevre sauce with freshly baked breads; Roasted duck breast with apple soubise, truffle glazed root vegetables and Jerusalem artichoke chips with borscht jus, and finally rum baba in an elegant glass chalice with poached pineapple, chantilly cream and pineapple water. The meal was washed down with wine from the Georgian Wine Company, Gaumarjos Ltd, and, of course, with shots of the quality real Russian vodka ‘Imperia’ that kept guests feeling increasingly jolly until late!
“We have always had, through your efforts, the opportunity to see the traditional side of Russia. I would like to raise a toast for the real Russia, the Russia of vast diversity. There we have not only amazing national dancers, but a whole range of wonderful achievements. We must await the day when Russian artists will head to Britain, not only to gather on Trafalgar Square for such a magnificent festival with free entry for all, but also to record here their albums and to perform to sell-out concerts. And let’s also await that moment when British artists will also come to us in Russia in the same way”. — Mr Alexander Polestistkiy, EMG
Of the 240 guests of 2008, names included Yuri Fedotov, Russian Ambassador to the UK; Vyacheslav Nikonov, Russkiy Mir; Andrei Leonovich, Investor; Boris Zimin, Dynasty Foundation; Natalia Vodianova, Supermodel with husband Justin Portman; Nicky Clarke, celebrity hairdresser; Sergei Kovanda, Investor; Mark Dunhill, Faberge; Alexander Gleb, Arsenal footballer; Dmitry Tarasov, Lukoil; Alexei Smertin, Fulham footballer; Andrey Tolstoy-Miloslavsky, Cluttons Property and many others from business, arts and the media.