Real Russia Blog

Victory Day in Russia
9
May
2017

Victory Day in Russia

Victory Day commemorates the Victory of the Soviet Union over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945

Russian holidays reflect all aspects of Russian history and traditions. One of our national favourites is Victory Day, which is celebrated, unlike Europe, on 9th May, as Germany’s surrender was signed in Berlin late in the evening on 8th May when it was already 9th May in Russia, due to the difference in time zones.

9th May in Russia is a day of remembrance and joy, but, as the phrase goes, it is a joy ‘with tears in the eyes’. During the four years of war, the USSR lost around 25 million citizens. In Russia and in other countries of the former Soviet Union, there is no family who was not affected by the war with Nazi Germany. So, the social memory about it is still alive and is being kept by virtue of different events and ceremonies, which traditionally take place in Russia on Victory Day.

Public celebrations

On the 9th May, a non-working day, celebrations and commemorative events are held all across Russia, with military parades, fireworks and other ceremonies. One of the most popular events is the tasting of the ‘soldier’s meal’ – made up of boiled barley groats – followed by drinking 100 grams of vodka, in remembrance of the meagre rations given to the soldiers.

Across Russia, a ceremony will take place in which flowers are laid at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, and a minute of silence is held, for soldiers killed in battles, members of resistance movements, prisoners of deaths camps and all the civilians, who perished to the hardships of sieges and wartime.

In the parks and squares throughout Russia, to the sound of the old tunes performed by orchestra, younger generations honour veterans, give them flowers (usually red carnations), thank them and ask for wartime stories.

The main military show of this day – parades – are usually invitation only events, and most people can see them only broadcasting on TV. On this day, before and after the Parade broadcasting, TV channels broadcast well-known, mostly tearful, Soviet films about the Great Patriotic War. People gather around the festive table to remember the passed-away relatives and to express gratitude for the peaceful sky over their heads.

Fireworks traditionally conclude the day of the commemoration.

Victory Parade

The first Victory Parade was held on 24 June 1945 on Red Square in Moscow. Since then, Victory Parade has been an integral part of the Victory Day celebrations, aimed at honouring the heroic sacrifices of the past and demonstrating the might of the country and its latest military hardware.

Military parades take place in major Russian cities, while the biggest parade always takes place in Moscow’s Red Square. Last year the Moscow parade “involved 10,000 military staff, 135 armoured vehicles, and 71 aircraft” (based on information from bbc.co.uk).

The State Historical Museum on the Red Square On Victory Day, Moscow.

Immortal Regiment

The Immortal Regiment movement arose to commemorate the heroical deed and bravery of those who fought in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.

Starting in 2009, this march became so popular that in 2016, in Moscow alone, it comprised of over 700,000 people. Beyond that, thousands of people in more than 50 countries around the world took part in the marches carrying the portraits of their family members who fought on the battlefronts of World War II.

As the founders of this movement say, the new war starts when the generation, who forgot what the war is, have grown up. Therefore, the Immortal Regiment aims to preserve and defend the memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War.

Immortal Regiment march in Moscow

If you are keen on Russian history and would like to feel the moving power of Victory Day or other holiday in Russia, contact out travel specialists to find out your best options.

Real Russia Blog

Defender of the Fatherland Day
23
February
2017

Defender of the Fatherland Day

A day of real men

On February 24th, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day. On this special occasion, most offices, banks and official buildings, including consulates and visa centers, are closed.

Defender of the Fatherland day is observed in Russia and several other former Soviet republics to commemorate the veterans and members of the Armed Forces, mostly men, but also women, who currently serve, or who have previously served, in the military. People treat it not just as a military celebration, but as a universal men’s holiday; an opportunity to congratulate all men of the country.

The history of the holiday

This day traces its history to 1922, when the fourth anniversary of Red Army was celebrated. However, some historians argue that this special day is in fact celebrated to laud the Red Army’s first important victory over German invaders in 1918.

Between 1936 and 1990, the holiday was observed as the Soviet Army and Navy Day. In 1991 the holiday was removed from the calendar, before being renamed and reinstated in 2002.

How do people celebrate this day?

Though this day honors the military as a whole, many Russians regard Defender of the Fatherland day as a 'men’s day' because military service is obligatory for most men in Russia. Colloquially, it's a day of real men, broadly speaking, defenders, a day to honor them for their force, courage and spirit.

Women often give presents and postcards to their male relatives and friends, including those who never served in the military. On a workday before the holiday, many women also congratulate their male colleagues, and schoolboys may receive greeting cards and small presents from their female classmates. At schools and nurseries girls do simple crafts and banners to present to their fathers and other male relatives.

It is followed on the 8th March by International Women's Day, on which day the men of Russia honour the fairer sex.

Public celebrations

Russian authorities may organize local parades and fireworks to honor the military and veterans on this day. The Russian President, military leaders, and representatives of Parliament and the Government, traditionally attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden near the Kremlin walls.

Alexander Garden and the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Russia

We wholeheartedly congratulate all our male colleagues, and everyone who will be celebrating this day!

If you would like to take in the incredible atmosphere of one of Russia’s many public celebrations, why not speak to our travel specialists in Russia about any of the services we offer?

Real Russia Blog

New Year in Russia
30
December
2014

New Year in Russia

An Inside View of New Years Celebrations!

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.

Why is New Year the most favourite Russian holiday?

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.


New Year celebrations in Russia.

‘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.’

How children celebrate New Year.

”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.”
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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!