Designer trees from around the world light up Moscow's Christmas festival

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By Josephine Joly  with AP
A worker fixes decorations on a Christmas tree in downtown Moscow on December 15, 2021.
A worker fixes decorations on a Christmas tree in downtown Moscow on December 15, 2021.   -  Copyright  DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP

People in Moscow are being treated to a spectacular display of Christmas trees themed on cities from around the world, an attempt to cheer up Russians as the COVID pandemic continues to restrict travel this holiday season.

The "Gallery of Designer Christmas Trees" project is the latest addition to the Russian capital's traditional "Journey to Christmas" festival, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

The trees have been created by Russian designers, musicians, actors, and ballet dancers, with each given a particular city for inspiration.

A tree adorned in red and decorated in a Moulin Rouge theme represents Paris. For Italy, pasta shapes replaced the usual Christmas baubles on the tree, to represent the Italian resort of Forte-dei-Marmi.

Umbrellas and trams decorate a Lisbon-themed tree. Vienna, New York, Beijing, and Moscow are also all here.

Golden Oscar statuettes salute Hollywood, while a tree decorated with owls and letters represents the world of Harry Potter.

"Fifteen famous people from Moscow made incredibly beautiful Christmas trees dedicated to the most famous and largest cities in the world. Since our citizens cannot travel today, they have a unique opportunity to come and see the Christmas trees that adorn different cities in different capitals," said Artyom Krivda, the creative director of the 'Gallery of Designer Christmas Trees'.

With fewer restrictions in Moscow than last Christmas, organisers say this spectacular display of trees from around the world will bring a touch of much-needed seasonal cheer.

"I can say with full confidence that our Christmas trees are the most beautiful in the city. I wish for everyone who does not have a New Year's mood or who doubts something, or who needs to get some incredible charge of emotions, to come here and see these trees with their own eyes," Krivda added.

As part of the wider festival, 27 sites have been set up across the city, each representing seasonal New Year and Christmas traditions of different countries.

There are 20 Christmas markets, 21 merry-go-rounds, sports activities, open-air curling competitions, and 18 free skating rinks.

A 'festive mood' for all

Costumed characters and Father Frost welcome visitors who may have missed celebrations last year because of the pandemic.

"People did miss it and they are absolutely right. Last year we held the festival very modestly, it took place, but without any mass events. This year, skating rinks and restaurants and our shopping chalets are working, music is playing, so I hope we will try to catch up and create a festive mood for all our guests," noted Aleksey Nemeryuk, a minister at the Moscow Government.

The city's Tverskaya Square has recreated the atmosphere of a masquerade ball while the Square of Revolution is decked out in the style of rich Moscow merchants.

Organisers say their main desire is to fill people with festive spirit -- and that seems to be working.

"We came here basically in no mood. In general, I do not celebrate the New Year at all, but I came here and, I don't know, somehow, I want it now," revealed Moscow resident Inna Zhuravlenko.

"I like the way Moscow is decorated, I like the mood of the upcoming holiday, it is always felt. We live in Moscow, but rarely manage to get out somewhere, to visit places, so we decided that we should take advantage of this," Zhanna Yolkina, another Moscow resident, added.

The "Journey to Christmas" festival is organised by the mayor's office and has been put on annually since 2013. It will run until January 9, 2022.