New Year in Russia: how to celebrate
Russia’s most popular holiday is just around the corner. Can you guess which one is it? It’s the New Year (Новый Год)! That’s right, in Russia the New Year beats Christmas in its importance. The majority of Russians celebrate the New Year’s day with the rest of the world on the 1st of January. New Year is a holiday supreme and is celebrated for at least two weeks (you will later find out why).
Russians welcome the New Year by saying “С Новым годом!“ (s Novim Godom). Every city will have its own festivities, concerts and other events. The streets will be decorated with trees and lights. It’s truly an experience and probably one of the best times to visit Russia. Keep on reading to get a sneak-peak on how the New Year is celebrated in Russia.
New Year’s tree and Ded Moroz
The yolka (ёлка) is a traditional Christmas tree which is decorated for the New Year usually 1 to 3 weeks before the holiday itself. It is common to keep the trees until 14th of January. Any public trees, like the Christmas tree on Moscow’s Red Square are actually symbols of the New Year.
Because New Year’s is celebrated earlier than Christmas gifts are exchanged on the 31st of December. In Russia Ded Moroz (Дед Мороз) is delivering the gifts to children. He is carrying them in a large sack on his back and he is wearing valenki (валенки), traditional boots made out of wool. He is joined by his granddaughter Snegurochka (Снегурочка). Ded Moroz doesn’t live on the North Pole like his counterpart Santa Clause, he lives in the town of Veliky Ustyug in the Vologda Oblast. Snegurochka on the other hand lives in Kostroma, around 600 kilometres away from Ded Moroz. He doesn’t rely on reindeers to fly him around but instead he takes matters in his own hands and simply walks and skies a lot or drives his open sleigh which is carried by three horses which is called troika (тройка). It is a New Year’s tradition to place two figures of them under the New Year’s tree.
New Year’s dishes
Food is a very important aspect when celebrating the New Year in Russia. Tables will break under the huge amount of amazing and delicious dishes. The celebrations are unthinkable without the traditional salads like Olivier and Shuba. The Olivier salad is a mix of potatoes and other vegetables, mayonnaise and meat. Shuba on the other hand is a combination of surprising ingredients like herring and beets shredded, smeared with mayonnaise and layered like a cake.
Other popular dishes are pickled vegetables, meat and potatoes, pelmeni, chocolate candies and the torte Napoleon which are of course joined by drinking champagne or vodka. In addition, mandarins are a necessity as Russians strongly associate the fragrance with the New Year’s celebrations. It is believed that a table with a great variety of different dishes symbolises prosperity and well-being for the coming year. Along with eating and decorating the tree watching special holiday programmes on the television is another part of the celebrations.
New Year’s traditions
A common New Year’s expression is “The way you spend New Year’s Eve is the same way you’ll spend the rest of the year” (Как Новый год встретишь, так его и проведешь).
That’s why it’s so important that the last day of the year has to be free from worries and arguments and rather be festive. You should forgive people, pay off your debts and clean the house to start the new year happy and clean. A lot of Russians will also visit the Russian sauna (баня) or take at least a hot bath on the 31st of December to purify their body.
You definitely should not sleep through the New Year as it is considered a bad omen and that the upcoming year will be sleepy and uneventful for you. Many people will also buy new clothes to wear on the New Year to honour the fresh start.
If you happen to be in Moscow on the New Year’s Eve you can head to the Red Square and experience the amazing fireworks there. Other cities in Russia will also have their own fireworks or concerts to mark the New Year. At midnight the bells ring for one minute. That’s the turn to open champagne, make a wish and clink glasses with your loved ones exactly when the clock strikes 12. Many people train for years to master the right tactic for this.
The Old New Year
If you think that the celebrations will end on the 1st of January you are wrong. During mid-January the party is still going on. The celebrations will usually last for two weeks as the Russian Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January and the Old New Year (Старый Новый Год) on the 14th of January, though on a much smaller scale. The 14th of January denotes the New Year in the old Orthodox Calendar. This day is not an official holiday but it is still widely enjoyed.
It is usually spent with family and a lot quieter than the New Year’s celebrations on the 31st of December.
Hopefully this article gave you some insights on how the New Year is celebrated in Russia. If you ever happen to be there during the celebrations also check out these important phrases to use.
Wishing someone a Happy New Year – С Новым годом! (S novim godom)
Wishing someone a happy holiday – С праздником! (S prazdnikom)
Wishing someone a happy upcoming year – С наступающим! (S nastupayushchim)
Replying to someone – И Вас также! (I vas takzhe)