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Celebrating the Holiday Season in Space 2022

The Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year holidays are joyful events typically spent with family and friends. Astronauts and cosmonauts who find themselves in space during the holidays have found their own unique way to celebrate the occasions. In the early years of the space program, holidays spent in space occurred infrequently, most notably the flight of Apollo 8 around the Moon during Christmas 1968, making them more memorable. As missions became longer and more frequent, holidays in space became more common occasions. For the past 22 years, holidays spent aboard the International Space Station have become annual, if not entirely routine, events.

apollo_8_earthrise_1968 holidays_in_space_2021_2_apollo_8_video_screen_shot
Left: The famous Earthrise photograph, taken by the Apollo 8 crew in lunar orbit.
Video of the Apollo 8 crew of Frank Borman, James A. Lovell,
and William A. Anders reading from The Book of 

The first crew to spend Christmas in space, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders, celebrated the holiday while circling the Moon in December 1968, the first humans to have left Earth orbit. They immortalized the event on Christmas Eve by taking turns reading the opening verses from the Bible’s Book of Genesis as they broadcast scenes of the Moon gliding by below. An estimated one billion people in 64 countries tuned in to their Christmas Eve broadcast. As they left lunar orbit, Lovell radioed back to Earth, where it was already Christmas Day, “Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!”

holidays_in_space_2022 holidays_in_space_2022
Left: Skylab 4 astronauts Gerald P. Carr, left, Edward G. Gibson, and William R. Pogue
trim their homemade Christmas tree in December 1973. Right: Carr, Gibson,
and Pogue hung their stockings aboard Skylab.

During their 84-day record-setting mission aboard the Skylab space station in 1973 and 1974, Skylab 4 astronauts Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, and Edward G. Gibson celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s in space. They were the first crew to spend Thanksgiving and New Year’s in orbit. They built a homemade Christmas tree from leftover food containers, used colored decals as decorations, and topped it with a cardboard cutout in the shape of a comet. Carr and Pogue spent seven hours on a Christmas Day spacewalk to change out film canisters and observe the passing Comet Kohoutek. Once back inside the station, they enjoyed a Christmas dinner complete with fruitcake, talked to their families, and opened presents. They even had orbital visitors of sorts, as Soviet cosmonauts Pyotr I. Klimuk and Valentin V. Lebedev orbited the planet aboard Soyuz 13 between Dec. 18 and 26, marking the first time that astronauts and cosmonauts were in space at the same time. Different orbits precluded any direct contact between the two crews.

soyuz_26_grechko_romanenko_new_year_message_1978 soyuz_26_grechko_romanenko_toasting_1978
Aboard Salyut-6, Georgi M. Grechko, left, and Yuri V. Romanenko, toast to celebrate
the new year in space, the first Russian cosmonauts to do so.
Image credits: Courtesy of RKK Energia.

In the more secular Soviet era, the New Year’s holiday had more significance than the Jan. 7 observance of Russian Orthodox Christmas. The first cosmonauts to ring in a new year in orbit were Yuri V. Romanenko and Georgi M. Grechko, during their record-setting 96-day mission in 1977 and 1978, aboard the Salyut-6 space station. They toasted the new year during a TV broadcast with the ground. The exact nature of the beverage consumed for the occasion has not been passed down to posterity.

sts_61_hoffman_w_dreidel hoffman_hanukkah_video_screenshot
Left: STS-61 mission specialist Jeffrey A. Hoffman with a dreidel during Hanukkah
in December 1993. Right:
Video of Hoffman describing how he celebrated
Hanukkah aboard space shuttle Endeavour.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration of the recapture of Jerusalem and rededication of the Second Temple in 164 B.C.E. It is celebrated in the month of Kislev in the Hebrew lunar calendar, which can fall between late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. NASA astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman celebrated the first Hanukkah in space during the STS-61 Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in 1993. Hanukkah that year began on the evening of Dec. 9, after Hoffman completed his third spacewalk of the mission. He celebrated with a traveling menorah, unlit of course, and by spinning a dreidel.

The STS-103 crew of Claude Nicollier of the European Space
Agency (ESA), left front, Scott J. Kelly, John M. Grunsfeld;
Steven L. Smith, left rear, C. Michael Foale, Curtis L. Brown,
and Jean- François A. Clervoy of ESA, showing off their Santa
hats on the flight deck of space shuttle Discovery
in 1999.

The crew of another Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, STS-103, celebrated the first space shuttle Christmas in 1999 aboard Discovery. For Christmas dinner, Curtis L. Brown, Scott J. Kelly, Steven L. Smith, Jean-François A. Clervoy of the European Space Agency (ESA), John M. Grunsfeld, C. Michael Foale, and Claude Nicollier of ESA enjoyed duck foie gras on Mexican tortillas, cassoulet, and salted pork with lentils. Smith and Grunsfeld completed repairs on the telescope during a Christmas Eve spacewalk.

mir_17_new_years_kondakova_with_freixenet_champagne kondakova_champagne_screen_shot
Left: Russian cosmonaut and Mir Expedition 17 flight engineer Elena V. Kondakova
with a bottle of champagne to celebrate New Year’s Eve 1994. Right:
Video of
Kondakova demonstrating the behavior of champagne in weightlessness aboard Mir.
Image credits: Courtesy of RKK Energia.

Between 1987 and 1998, 12 Mir expedition crews spent their holidays aboard the ever-expanding orbital outpost. Two of the crews included NASA astronauts, John E. Blaha and David A. Wolf, aboard the Russian space station as part of the Shuttle-Mir Program. 

mir_22_christmas_blaha_1996 mir_24_nasa_6_wolf_w_menorah_1997
Left: Video of Mir Expedition 22 flight engineer and NASA astronaut John E. Blaha’s
1996 Christmas message from Mir. Right: Mir Expedition 24 flight engineer and NASA
astronaut David A. Wolf with his menorah and dreidel to celebrate Hanukkah in 1997. 

mir_24_new_years_eve_message_1997 mir_26_new_years_eve_1998
The last two New Year’s Eve messages from Mir. Left: Mir 24 crew of Pavel
V. Vinogradov, left, NASA astronaut David A. Wolf, and Anatoli Y. Solovyev
in 1997. Right: Mir 26 crew of Sergei V. Avdeyev, left, and Gennadi I.
Padalka in 1998. It was the third time Avdeyev rang in
the new year in space.
Image credits: Courtesy of RKK Energia.

The arrival of Expedition 1 crew members William M. Shepherd of NASA and Yuri P. Gidzenko and Sergei K. Krikalev of Roscosmos aboard the International Space Station on Nov. 2, 2000, marked the beginning of a permanent human presence in space. They were the first to celebrate Christmas and ring in the new year aboard the fledgling orbiting laboratory and began a tradition of reading a goodwill message to people back on Earth. Shepherd honored a naval tradition of writing a poem as the first entry of the new year in the ship’s log.

exp_1_christmas_message_2000_still_from_video sts_97_iss_during_departure
Left: Video of Expedition 1 crew members Yuri P. Gidzenko of Roscosmos, left, NASA
astronaut William M. Shepherd, and Sergei K. Krikalev of Roscosmos reading their
Christmas message in December 2000 – this marked Krikalev’s third holiday
season spent in orbit, the first two spent aboard Mir in 1988 and 1991.
Right: The space station as it appeared in December 2000.

Expedition 1 commander and NASA astronaut William M. Shepherd’s
poem, written for the New Year’s Day 2001 entry in the space
station’s log, in keeping with naval tradition.

christmas_on_iss_screen_shot exp_61_christmas_message_screen_shot
Left: A brief video selection of how some expedition crews celebrated Christmas aboard the
space station. Right: From 2019, the
Christmas message from the Expedition 61 crew members.

Enjoy the following selection of photographs of international crews as they celebrated Hanukkah and Christmasand rang in the new year over the past 21 years aboard the space station.

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Left: The Expedition 4 crew of Daniel W. Bursch of NASA, left, Yuri I. Onufriyenko of Roscosmos, and
Carl E. Walz of NASA pose for their Christmas photo in 2001. Middle: NASA astronaut C. Michael
Foale, left, and Aleksandr Y. Kaleri of Roscosmos of Expedition 8 celebrate Christmas in 2003.
Right: The Expedition 10 crew of Salizhan S. Sharipov of Roscosmos, left, and NASA
astronaut Leroy Chiao festooned for New Year’s Eve 2004.

exp_12_christmas_2005 exp_14_christmas_2005 exp_16_christmas_2007
Left: Valeri I. Tokarev of Roscosmos, left, and NASA astronaut William S. McArthur of Expedition 12
pose with Christmas stockings in 2005. Middle: The Expedition 14 crew of Mikhail V. Tyurin of
Roscosmos, left, and NASA astronauts Michael E. Lopez-Alegria and Sunita L. Williams pose
wearing Santa hats for Christmas 2006. Right: Posing with their Christmas stockings and
presents are Expedition 16 crew members Yuri I. Malenchenko of Roscosmos, left,
and NASA astronauts Peggy A. Whitson and Daniel M. Tani, in 2007.

exp_18_christmas_meal_2008 exp_22_christmas_2009 exp_26_new_years_eve_2010
Left: The Expedition 18 crew of E. Michael Fincke, left, and Sandra H. Magnus of NASA, and Yuri V.
Lonchakov of Roscosmos enjoy their Christmas dinner in 2008. Middle: The five-member Expedition
22 crew of Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, left, Maksim V. Surayev and
Oleg V. Kotov of Roscosmos, and Timothy J. Creamer and Jeffrey N. Williams of NASA around
the Christmas dinner table in 2009. Right: The Expedition 26 crew of Oleg I. Skripochka of
Roscosmos, left, Paolo A. Nespoli of the European Space Agency, Dmitri Y. Kondratyev of
Roscosmos, Catherine G. “Cady” Coleman of NASA, Aleksandr Y. Kaleri of Roscosmos, and
NASA’s Scott J. Kelly celebrate New Year’s Eve 2010. This marked Kaleri’s third
holiday season spent in space.

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Left: The Expedition 30 crew of NASA astronaut Donald R. Pettit, left, Anatoli A. Ivanishin and Oleg
D. Kononenko of Roscosmos, André Kuipers of the European Space Agency, NASA’s Daniel C. Burbank, and
Anton N. Shkaplerov of Roscosmos pose for their Christmas photo in 2011. Middle: Christmas 2012
photograph of Expedition 34 crew members of NASA astronaut Thomas H. Marshburn, left, Roman Y.
Romanenko, Oleg V. Novitski, and Yevgeni I. Tarelkin of Roscosmos, Kevin A. Ford of NASA, and
Chris A. Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency. Right: For Christmas in 2013, the Expedition
42 crew left milk and cookies for Santa and hung their stockings using the Joint Airlock
as a makeshift chimney.

exp_50_new_years_eve_2016 exp_54_vande_hei_elf_on_a_shelf_2017 exp_58_christmas_2018
Left: Expedition 50 crew members Sergei N. Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, left, R. Shane Kimbrough of NASA,
Andrei I. Borisenko and Oleg V. Novitski of Roscosmos, Peggy A. Whitson of NASA, and Thomas G. Pesquet
of the European Space Agency celebrate New Year’s Eve in style in 2016. Middle: Expedition 54 crew
member Mark T. Vande Hei of NASA strikes a pose as an Elf on the Shelf for Christmas 2017.
Right: The Expedition 58 crew of David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, left,
Anne C. McClain of NASA, and Oleg D. Kononenko of Roscosmos inspect their Christmas
stockings for presents in 2018.

exp_61_meir_hanukkah_socks_2019 exp_61_christmas_message_2019 exp_61_new_years_eve_2019
Three scenes from the 2019 holiday season aboard the space station. Left: Expedition 61
flight engineer Jessica U. Meir of NASA shows off her Hanukkah-themed socks in the Cupola.
Middle: Expedition 61 crew members Andrew R. Morgan, left, and Christina H. Koch of
NASA, Luca S. Parmitano of the European Space Agency, and Meir share their Christmas
messages. Right: Expedition 61 crew members Koch, left, Morgan, Oleg I. Skripochka of
Roscosmos, Meir, Aleksandr A. Skvortsov of Roscosmos, and Parmitano ring in the
new year with harmonicas.

holidays_in_space_2021_39_exp_64_holiday_greeting_dec_2020 holidays_in_space_2021_40_exp_64_new_year_message holidays_in_space_2021_41_exp_64_new_years_celebration
Three scenes from the 2020 holiday season aboard the space station. Left: Expedition 64
NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, left, Michael S. Hopkins, Kathleen H. Rubins, and Victor
J. Glover and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) record
Christmas greetings. Middle: Walker, left, Hopkins, Rubins, Glover, and Noguchi use
an inflatable Earth globe as a substitute for the Times Square
New Year’s Eve ball “drop”
aboard the space station. Right: Expedition 64 crew members Sergei V. Kud-Sverchkov
of Roscosmos, left, Hopkins, Walker, Sergei N. Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, Glover,
Rubins, and Noguchi welcome in 2021 aboard the space station.

holidays_in_space_2021_42_exp_66_holiday_message_dec_2021 holidays_in_space_2021_43_exp_66_barron_w_presents_dec_2021
Left: During Expedition 66 in 2021, NASA astronauts Mark T. Vande Hei, left,
Raja J. Chari, Kayla S. Barron, and Thomas H. Marshburn, and Matthias Maurer
of the European Space Agency in a still from a video in which they
share their
thoughts about the holiday season
. Right: Barron showing off
the presents she wrapped for her six crewmates.

“It is a privilege to have the perspective of seeing so many countries,” said Expedition 66 Commander NASA astronaut Thomas H. Marshburn in a video sharing his thoughts about spending the New Year in space. “We can go from one side [of Earth] to another in just a few minutes and it truly gives us a feeling of unification for all human beings around the world.” “We get to see the sunrise many times a day, so thinking about the fact that people are waking up to a New Year each time we see that sunrise is pretty cool,” added NASA astronaut Raja J. Chari. In a social media post, ESA astronaut Matthias J. Maurer wrote about their New Year’s Eve dinner and included a time lapse video of the festive meal.

Expedition 68 crew members Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency, left, and NASA astronauts Francisco C.
“Frank” Rubio, Josh A. Cassada, and Nicole A. Mann record
a holiday greeting from the space station.

Currently living and working aboard the space station, Expedition 68 crew members NASA astronauts Nicole A. Mann, Josh A. Cassada, and Francisco C. “Frank” Rubio, and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata recorded a holiday message for everyone on the ground. They shared some of their personal traditions for the holidays and provided a glimpse of how they will spend the holidays aboard the space station.

tiangong_space_station_astronauts_livestream shenzhou_13_lunar_new_year_welcoming_year_of_the_tiger_jan_30_2022
Left: To celebrate New Year’s Day 2022, Shenzhou 13 astronauts Ye Guangfu,
left, Zhai Zhigang, and Wang Yaping aboard the China Space Station Tiangong
hold a live video call. Right: Wang, left, Zhai, and Ye celebrate
the Chinese New Year of the Tiger aboard Tiangong.

On Jan. 1, 2022, for the first time Chinese astronauts celebrated a New Year in space. The Shenzhou 13 crew of Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu had arrived aboard the China Space Station Tiangong on Oct. 15, 2021, for a six-month mission. On New Year’s Day 2022, they hosted a live video call and interacted with college students at venues in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Macao. For the Feb. 1 start of the Chinese New Year of the Tiger, they decorated the space station and sent best wishes to people on the ground for a happy and prosperous new year.

We hope you enjoyed these stories, photographs, and videos from holiday celebrations in space. This year, a record-tying 10 people from four nations will celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year while serving aboard two space stations – the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong space station. We wish them all and everyone here on Earth the very best during the holiday season and hope that 2023 will indeed be a Happy New Year!