New Year Festival

New Year is one of the main festivals in Russia. Russians start getting ready in November: shop windows are decked with garlands, decorated fir-trees appear in the squares and in the center of every city and town there open the holiday bazaars and fairs.

In Russia, they celebrate New Year on the night of December 31st to January 1st. This is one of the main holidays in the country. The season’s vacations last for 8 days. Russians start getting ready in November: shop windows are decked with garlands, decorated fir-trees appear in the squares and in the center of every city and town there open the holiday bazaars and fairs. The weather on the New Year’s Eve is normally snowy and frosty. During the New Year vacations almost all the shops keep working as usual, parks are open for outdoor parties and museums welcome everyone. It is worth mentioning that during these days Moscow and Saint Petersburg are flooded with tourists, so you’d better plan your visits to the tourist sights well in advance and whenever possible schedule these for the morning hours.

Some Background

Russian New Year celebration tradition is more than 300 years old. It was Peter the Great who set the celebration date for January 1st in 1699. Before that, they used to celebrate New Year in September, the month they collected taxes and crops. According to the tsar’s Edict, every year starting from January 1st, everyone was entitled to make merry, decorate houses and fir-trees with special toys, nuts, and confectioneries. These festive innovations came from Europe. This was the way they celebrated New Year for several hundred years until the Revolution of 1917. The tradition was interrupted for several decades and was brought back to life after the end of Great Patriotic War (i.e. the period when the USSR was a combatant in World War II).

Santa Claus vs Ded Moroz

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka, his granddaughter and helper symbolize the New Yeear for Russians. This character of a kind old man, the Lord of Winter, was borrowed from Europe and reinterpreted in the Russian way. Thus, for example, Santa Claus wears a red coat whereas Ded Moroz wears a silver or blue one. Santa Claus wears glasses and he has a mid-length curly beard, whereas Ded Moroz has a long straight-hair beard. Besides, the foreign counterpart travels in a sleigh is led by eight reindeer whereas Ded Moroz either walks or rides a sleigh pulled by three horses.

Modern Traditions

Russians have a proverb saying that the better you celebrate the New Year the better you’ll live it. This is why they celebrate it with plenty of food, rich decorations, and lots of merrymaking. In every home they decorate New Year trees and scan their writing pads in search of special New Year recipes. Traditional Russian New Year food includes Olivier salad (diced boiled vegetables with meat dressed with mayonnaise), dressed herring salad (an apetiser made of pickled herring and vegetables), and aspic (a gelatinous dish made of beef broth and vegetables). In Russia they can’t help having New Year’s meal without sparkling wine and mandarins. By the way, this tradition appeared during the Soviet era. For most Russians New Year is a family celebration. This is why on the eve of New Year they prefer gathering at one table. Nevertheless, young people prefer going to the country to watch fireworks and join the festivities. At midnight on the dot, everyone watches the traditional address by President and the peal of bells of Spasskaya Tower bell clock (Red Square), believed to be Russia's main clock. And after that, a spectacular firework. Sparkling wine corks also fly in the air. New Year has come!

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