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COLUMNISTSRSS

Free to celebrate

at 18/12/2008 18:33

Of course everyone loves a vacation, especially when it comes from the state and doesn't eat into your precious paid time off work. But such a long break is unusual for Russia and it isn't clear what impact it has on day-to-day life. While many people revel in a long spell of leisure, taking the chance to catch up with family and friends away from the workaday routine, others feel the rest is just too long and does more harm than good. Questions are being raised about the relative benefits of rest versus a stable, smoothly running commercial world at the start of each year.

In Russia, things are better in moderation. Our mentality has an in-built capacity for extremes of behavior. Give us a deadline and a tricky task and we work like horses to see the work is done. But ask to take it easy, and we put our feet up straightaway. Ambitious plans are replaced by a simple ‘fridge-TV-fridge' routine: only the bottles and the guests will change. New Year be­comes an on-going feast when the only limit is money. Nothing else matters when you are away from work and can get up whenever you want.

I would hate to suggest that Russians cannot cope when they are not under someone's control. But the new-look holidays do cause problems. After a long time off it turns out to be very difficult to be back to work. Once you acquire a taste for relaxation, your pace of life changes and returning to normal becomes tortuous: your body and brain aren't accustomed to a working schedule, managing any sort of tasks and the necessity of keeping track and taking responsibility. Medical re­search suggests this is a scientific fact, not just a worker's grumble on January 11.

This year, Russia will be on holiday from January 1 to January 10. Plus on the 13th Russians will celebrate the Old New Year - another great chance to do nothing. Within this period, as citizens aren't expected to work, our economic life will be frozen. In 2008, for example, Russia's budget lost 700 billion rubles because of the New Year holidays. Our businesses simply didn't operate and GDP dropped by two percent. This year, in the teeth of a global financial crisis, can we afford this idle time? How will it affect the wider economy?

At the same time, even though the country is allowed to celebrate New Year and Christmas, life goes on and people need their essentials. From shops and stores to power stations and emergency services, not everyone can enjoy a holiday.

Plus, top management can't allow business to grind to a complete halt, and often continue even if on a reduced schedule. It may be their own initiative but it is still inevitable.

The need for extended New Year holidays has already been questioned by the State Duma. Maybe it was better before with shorter holidays at this time. Is it time to switch back to the old-style midwinter break we were used to? Perhaps we will benefit from measured holidays and a more restrained view of this period.

By Daria Chernyshova

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