How Russians Celebrate New Year Holidays
“Every year on 31st of December I go with my friends to banya… It’s our tradition!”. This phrase from the Soviet movie The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! by Eldar Ryazanov is known to each and every Russian. The story takes place in beautiful cities, Moscow and St Petersburg. Generations of people all over the country can’t even imagine Russian New Years eve without watching this movie and enjoying a family dinner, which definitely has Olivier (or Russian) salad as one of the main courses.
Actually 31 December in Russia is a working pre-festive day, shortened by 1 hour. So in the evening people hurry home to celebrate! As a rule, officially winter public holidays in Russia start on 1 of January and last till 9 or 10 January, depending on the year and the government’s decision. All in all, Russians have nine or ten free days! How do people spend them?
Below we summed up the most notable peculiarities of the main national holidays in Russia, so you could make sure it’s indeed a great idea to explore the New Year city during one of Moscow private tours. Let’s have a brief walk through these days.
Russian New Year: Great 10-day Holiday
December 30. This day and even a week in advance supermarkets and gift stores become crowed, people grab everything they can afford, sometimes without checking expiration dates. They know that later on and in the first one-two days of January it will be quite complicated to find even a fresh loaf of bread – empty shelves will be everywhere. They also know that New Year’s coming means boosted prices, and hit the shops twice as eagerly. All the kids are excited with dressing the New Year Tree, which is usually a pine, and are waiting for the Father Frost (or Ded Moroz in Russian) to come next night with a present for them. Of course, if they were good boys and girls.
December 31. The families in Russia are back from work and come together to cook for the evening feast and watch some popular movies at the same time.The menu is very diversified, from starters and salads to main meat or fish courses, desserts and sometimes home-made beverages. At about 10 pm when all the food is ready, they sit down to dinner to see the old year out, and the new year in. They watch TV, wait for the Presidential address and the Kremlin bell chime at 12 am. Then the streets become full of people with champagne flutes walking all around and congratulating each other, feasting their eyes on the sky full of fireworks. The New Years Eve holiday lasts till the morning.
January 1. This is the laziest day of the year, when all Russians sleep themselves out, open their presents and enjoy a peaceful evening with their near and dear ones. Some try to get over a hangover from the last wild night. The cities become ‘alive’ only by the evening, therefore the best places to spend your time outdoors are probably such places as Gorky Park, Arbat Street, Red Square and the like.
January 2. Not everyone will be motivated enough to crawl out on the streets even on this day. Many continue to sleep, eat and watch movies they've seen a hundred times before. More active folks understand they can't keep this anymore and set off somewhere. The most popular are the cinema, musical, theatre and other art events, or just walking down the beautifully illuminated streets.
January 3–6. By this time, most people come back to everyday life and see their relatives and friends, give them presents, get something in return, and chat over, yes, a hearty dinner. Those who didn’t manage it before, take part in some New Year events – adults enjoy themselves, make new friends, chat and relax, and their little kids adore listening to stories of Father Frost and his granddaughter Snow Maiden (Ded Moroz and Snegurochka in Russian) and getting sweets right from their hands. Sport fans can go skiing or snowboarding in the woods in the country, or go ice skating right in the city. There are a lot of good skating rinks in Moscow, for example at VDNKh (first class one!), Gorky Park, GUM, Sokolniki Park and Hermitage Garden. If you aren’t a big fan of winter sports, you can just go for a walk and enjoy fairy tale decorated streets in the city centre with a cup of hot coffee or tea picked from one of the best Moscow coffee shops.
January 7. Apart from New Year, there is one more important day: Russain Orthodox Christmas on the night of 6 January. Many take it as a religious holiday but not everyone would go to church services these days. On the contrary, people mostly have a quiet family dinner with all the grandchildren and grandparents.
January 8–9. Once again, those who understand there’s no sense in spending the whole Christmas New Year holidays at home, go out to at least walk around the city and amuse themselves with urban landscape, artfully decorated shop windows and other luminescent objects. Another good idea is to pop over some Christmas markets and buy souvenirs, food or try local traditional cuisine right on the street.
January 10. The Russian New Year holiday will soon come to an end and everyone seem to anticipate the work routine again. So it's a great time to do everything you planned but did not, before it's too late. For example, visiting one of giant fluorescent installations at Manezhnaya Square will definitely worth your time. Other downtown places of interest are no exception.
In a company of our Moscow private guide speaking various languages you can take an opportunity to plunge back into your childhood on one of our Moscow private tours. Let’s enjoy winter holidays in Moscow together!
About the author
Diana Zalenskaya, a travel professional and destination expert for Moscow, Russia.