The New Year is the most important holiday on the Russian calendar. To give you an insight into how the New Year is celebrated in Russia, we thought we would ask our teams in Moscow and Volzhsky how they traditionally celebrate.
First, though, a quick introduction. Russians do not celebrate Christmas in the same way that many western countries do, they do not even celebrate it on the same day. In Russia it is celebrated on the 7th January, as it is still very much a religious event, and the Russian Orthodox Church still operate according to the Julian Calendar; as opposed to the Gregorian Calendar that is generally used by people around the world.
The New Year equates the importance of Christmas on the west. What many western countries would recognise as Christmas, gift giving, social and familial gatherings, and merriment, actually happen in Russia on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the 31st December and 1st January. Those dates do happen according to the Gregorian Calendar, just to confuse matters.
Russians receive more than a week off and spend this time celebrating, visiting, giving gifts, setting off fireworks. New Year is time to be with family and friends; and Russians believe that those with whom you celebrate the New Year will be near you for the rest of the next year.
Before Peter the Great's decree in 1699, Russia used to celebrate New Year on the 1st of September, once the harvest has been gathered. Before Communists came to power in 1917, Christmas was more important holiday in Russia then New Year. Communists banned religion in the country, so Christmas became less and less popular with years passing by and New Year replaced it in people's hearts.
Like western Christmas, the New Year in Russia is celebrated with a decorated New Year tree, gifts, Ded Moroz, fireworks and all other attributes. Russian people consider the coming year to be the beginning of new life, a chance to make the dreams come true. This holiday has some nice traditions, like to set a dinner table full of delicious dishes, including Olivier salad, watch the President's solemn speech, which is broadcasted on all the TV channels just before the midnight, or to make a wish and drink champagne while the Kremlin chimes on Spasskaya tower are tolling at 11.59 pm.
Now that you have a little background to the holiday period in Russia, here, curtesy of our Russian team, is an insight into the Russians' favourite holiday – the New Year.
‘Everything starts in the morning of the 31st of December with cooking and preparing to night's celebrations. Around 10 p.m., all dressed up, people gather around the table, with friends and relatives, to taste all the dishes that they have prepared and say goodbye to the departing year. The festive table is set with different tasty dishes, like roasted chicken, pork, duck or turkey with mashed potatoes, pelmeni, delicatessen, e.g. pickles, mushrooms, cheese, salamy and salted fish, salads with vegetables or meat and mayonnaise.
At 11: 55 p.m., on the TV, our president sums up the past year and wishes all the best to the citizens. At 11:59 p.m. the Kremlin chime beats the midnight, the beginning of the New Year, with 12 strikes. During these 12 strikes most people silently make wishes, the others write their wishes on small pieces of paper then burn them and dissolving the ash in the glasses with champagne drink it in one gulp.
After midnight people go ourside to light sparkles, display fireworks and congratulate the neighbours. Then we come back to the festive table, continue eating and drinking. Nearly at 2 a.m. people start dancing and singing karaoke, or go visiting friends and family. Some Moscovites go to Red Square to watch the fireworks and take take in the mass celebrations.
Celebrations end in the morning. The most famous saying asserts: “As you meet the New Year, so will you spend it”. It explains why Russians pay so much attention to joy, dressing-up and feast on New Year night. After a short sleep, we continue celebrating on 1st of January by visiting our friends or other relatives, making presents for them and wishing all the best.’
”The New Year celebrations for children start in the last days of December at schools. Special New Year performances for children also happen during the New Year holidays in January in theaters, circuses and other locations.
All December children get ready to the New Year performances at schools; they learn winter songs and rehearse dances beforehand. The senior pupils do performances for the youngest ones with the Russian fairy tales characters, usually about a fight between good and evil with happy end. Everybody is waiting to see Ded Moroz (Father Christmas) and Snegurochka (the grand-daughter of Ded Moroz), who come to the performance, help the good to fight evil and finally light the Christmas tree up to everyone’s amusement.
All children are taking part in this performance with their songs, winter rhymes, dances and games, all dressed up in different costumes of fairy-tale characters. They sing and dance in a ring around a huge Christmas tree in the centre of the hall. At the end, all children get their sweet gifts from Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.”
We hope that this has given you a little insight into how the holiday season is celebrated in Russia! All that is left, is to wish you a Happy New Year! С Новым Годом!