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Winter in Tashkent

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New Year celebration in Uzbekistan

This is our family’s first winter in Tashkent.

We moved to Tashkent from Washington DC in August of 2023. With all the settling in, time went by very quickly. Before we knew it, we found ourselves in December. It was time to start thinking about buying a Christmas tree and taking out our Christmas ornaments.

As one would expect, Christmas is not widely celebrated here in Uzbekistan, as ~90% of the population are Muslim. Only a small share of the population is Eastern Orthodox and they celebrate Christmas on January 7 (Uzbekistan used to have a large ethnic Russian and ethnic Ukrainian population back in the Soviet times but many of them emigrated).

Well, New Year is a big holiday for everyone in Uzbekistan. Huge, in fact! This tradition dates back to the Soviet times, which a lot of Uzbeks still remember with some degree of nostalgia. Consequently, streets, stores, restaurants, offices, museums etc. all get nicely decorated with beautiful ornaments and lights.

Winter in Tashkent – New Year decorations at the Taras Shevchenko Street

People here don’t normally talk about “Christmas” trees, but rather “New Year” trees, or simply “pine trees” (it’s pretty clear what pine tree you are talking about this time of the year!) Beautifully decorated pine trees get installed all over the city. People buy trees for their homes and prepare festive meals in their houses or go out to a party. The must have dishes include the famous Olivier salad and sandwiches with red caviar.

Christmas tree in our neighborhood

Surprise, surprise, we forgot all of our Christmas ornaments at home in the US. Somehow nobody remembered about them when we were packing back in August… We were not sure whether we’ll be able to find good quality ornaments in the stores, but turns out we did not need to worry.

There were plenty of nice ornaments on sale at the local market and in different stores. We bought everything we needed. Some ornaments were very cheap, just a couple of dollars, while others could cost $30 or more.

Winter in Tashkent – views of the Mirabad Market

They also sell a lot of nice fruit baskets in the market right before New Year. If you’d like to give a gift to somebody, this is a good option to consider.

Winter in Tashkent – fruit baskets at the Mirabad market

Buying a Christmas tree in Tashkent

The next item on our list was buying a Christmas tree. Well, we soon found out that buying one here in Tashkent turned out not as easy as in Washington DC.

Back home, we had several Christmas markets not far from our house. They opened in the early December and offered a wide variety of trees, big, small and medium, for very reasonable prices.

In Tashkent, the situation is a bit different. We did not find any well-organized, well-stocked, accessible Christmas tree markets similar to those we were used to. It became pretty clear that in Tashkent many people prefer to buy artificial Christmas trees. Those are available widely, in stores or at markets. At the Mirabad market, prices vary. The better ones are expensive ($200 or so). Smaller ones which don’t look real are cheaper (can be $50 or so).

Since we wanted to buy a real tree, we needed to dig deeper and investigate some more. We found out that they do sell some real Christmas trees on the outskirts of the city. Our driver took us there. Don’t ask me where exactly it was, but it took us good 45 minutes to get there, with plenty of traffic jams.

The selection was not as great as we hoped for, and most of the trees were not very pretty (to put it nicely). However, after a thorough investigation, we managed to find something suitable. The trees come in a pot. Together with delivery, the price was about $50 for a medium-sized tree.

Christmas tree market in Tashkent

It took us some work to decorate the tree we bought to make it look presentable. I think in the end we managed to achieve the result we were looking for. The ornaments we bought here in Tashkent seem quite nice and good quality.

Our Christmas Tree

Things to do during winter in Tashkent

Winter in Tashkent is a great season to get immersed in the city’s culture.

Many people leave Tashkent during the holiday period, so the city is not as busy as usual. We decided to stay in the city this year since we just arrived recently and wanted to explore. As it turns out, there are plenty of activities to do.

One of the big events during winter in Tashkent is the Nutcracker ballet at the Alisher Navoi opera and ballet theater. Tickets sell out very quickly, so it’s important to buy well in advance. As we were walking to the theater, at least 3 people asked us for a spare ticket. If you want to attend the Nutcracker in Tashkent, you can buy tickets online. Tickets are not expensive, so you can easily bring the whole family (first row was around $25).

Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater

The interior of the theater is gorgeous throughout the year, but during winter holidays, they also put together a nice holiday display in the lobby. It’s a great area to take pictures.

Christmas decorations at the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater

There are also various New Year performances for kids throughout the city. For example, the Holy Assumption Cathedral Church organizes a nice Christmas show for kids. The International Hotel also organized a performance with animators.

Christmas show at the International Hotel

Tashkent has plenty of museums and amusement parks which will entertain you during the winter holidays.

There are several skating rinks, including the Ice City and Riviera Mall ice stating rink. You can also visit the State Museum of Timurid History and the Tashkent Polytechnic Museum which are both excellent. Magic City (Tashkent “Disneyland”) is a fantastic amusement park to visit for the whole family. In addition, going to the Tashkent Zoo is always a great activity, whether it’s warm or cold outside. The zoo has both indoor and outdoor pavilions and you will never be disappointed by this visit.

Magic City Amusement Park in Tashkent

The Final Word

Winter holidays have now come to an end. My daughter Elizabeth is back to school and I am at work again. We sure had a good time celebrating Christmas and New Year here in Tashkent.

The icing on a cake was the release of my debut novel, Secrets We Keep. As I found out, nothing compares to holding your book in your hand. This was the best Christmas present for me this year.

Let’s see what 2024 has in store for us!

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6 thoughts on “Winter in Tashkent”

  1. I love learning more about how other cultures celebrate the holidays. There was certainly a lot to do during this time of year ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. It’s very admirable that you braved the winter in Tashkent! I would have not thought of visiting during the winter but it looks beautiful! I am not a fan of the cold – When is the best time for outdoors and green landscapes?

    1. I really enjoyed fall here- from mid-September till about end of November. It was mostly sunny and not hot, perfect for being outdoors. Also, lots of fruit of great quality. Melons, watermelons, plums, grapes of all kinds… Yum! I am told that spring is the most beautiful season here, but I’m yet to find out.

  3. I loved reading about how you spent the December in Tashkent. Sounds like it was a journey to find a tree, but it turned out great! That Christmas tree in opera and ballet theater was gorgeous as well!

  4. Interesting to read how Uzbekistan celebrated the New Year. It’s fun that they have Christmas trees, but don’t actually call them Christmas trees. Magic City sounds like a fun theme park and perfect to visit during the winter vacation.

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