New Year’s is the biggest celebration of the year sacred to every Russian. No other holiday in the calendar is celebrated with such enthusiasm and there’s number of traditions and rituals associated with it.
12 p.m., December 31 – HIDE YOUR GIFTS
Those who like to postpone everything until the last moment have their last chance now to finish decorating Christmas tree. Since New Year’s in Russia occurs earlier than Christmas (which is celebrated on January 7), people exchange gifts on December, 31. Unlike many western countries where gifts are put in stockings that hang from the fireplace gifts in Russia are usually placed under the Christmas tree. That’s why the next important step is to hide beautifully decorated New Year’s gifts meant for friends and family members under the tree and start the countdown to midnight.
1 p.m. – COOKING MARATHON BEGINS
Russian New Year’s just isn’t New Year’s without the salads. We’re not taking about light green salads either, but mayonnaise-infused and protein-thick works of art created by each hostess with their own touch. There are plenty of salads that can be found on the holiday table but only few are served in each family without exceptions. One of the most popular is Olivier salad made with potatoes, carrots, pickles, green peas, eggs, chicken or bologna all bound in mayonnaise. New Year’s literally doesn’t exist if this salad is not on the table. Selyodka pod Shuboi, or “Herring under a Fur Coat” is another not so simple must have. This layered carnival filled with herring, potatoes, carrots, beets, onions and mayonnaise has a festive purplish color which usually makes it a centerpiece on the holiday table. Caviar, mandarin oranges and champagne are also a necessity on New Year’s Eve. Russians even give them as gifts to the hosts and present to co-workers and friends.
7 p.m. – GREET YOUR GUESTS
New Year’s is without a doubt the most family-oriented holiday in Russia. Everyone gathers around the festive table, and many people make special trips from other regions in order to celebrate with their families. Close friends and even neighbors are also welcome but usually after midnight.
8 p.m. – TIME TO DRESS UP
Russians have their own Santa Claus called Grandfather Frost. He comes to children on New Year’s Even with his young granddaughter Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden). In exchange for gifts and sweets, children have to stand on a chair and recite a short poem. Usually parents dress up themselves, ask friends or neighbors or even hire professional actors who visit their kids to perform some amusing scenes and give gifts for New Year’s to Russia.
9 p.m. – TURN ON YOUR TV
New Year’s celebration can’t be considered complete without special holiday TV programs and movies. All channels start featuring entertaining shows early on December, 31 and finish only several days after. One of the most iconic Russian movies always shown on New Year’s Eve is “The Irony of Fate,” the story of an ordinary Soviet guy, who after a drinking binge at the sauna with friends, accidentally flies from Moscow to St. Petersburg, mistakenly breaks into a home that has the same address as his Moscow one, and finds the love of his life.
11:50 p.m. – MIDNIGHT DATE WITH MR. PRESIDENT
Regardless of their political affiliations, right before midnight Russians around the world tune in to hear the Russian president wishing everyone happy New Year. Once he finishes, the clock tower on Red Square chimes, fireworks burst into the air and the New Year officially begins. While the bells are ringing for one minute, you need to crack open a champagne bottle, make a wish and clink glasses with your loved ones precisely when the clock strikes 12 if you want your wish come true.
1 a.m. – TIME TO GO OUT
Since New Year’s is a family holiday, Russians stay celebrating with their dear ones till around 1 a.m. and only after they go out to visit friends, set off fireworks and attend parties.
2 p.m., January 1 – WAKE UP AND CONTINUE THE FEAST
New Year’s Eve is just the beginning of the long winter holidays in Russia. On January, 1 nobody wakes up until at least 2 p.m. Plenty of leftovers from the night before will help you survive without cooking for another week or so. And the best part is of course to know that you don’t have to be back at work till January, 10 which makes it over a week to shake off the hangovers.