There’s no grander holiday in Russia than New Year’s! Beloved by both children and adults of all ages this holiday is observed throughout the country with a lot of enthusiasm and joy. Even though the observance of New Year’s Day in Russia is somewhat similar to the celebration of Christmas in Western cultures it has its own unique customs and traditions.
A typical Russian family will decorate their house and set up a beautiful Christmas tree (“Novogodnaya Yolka”) not for Christmas like in so many other countries, but for the New Year’s celebration. A Christmas tree is usually decorated around December, 28 and will last at least until January, 13 (Old-New Year in the Russian calendar). Just like anywhere else it’s under the Christmas tree where children find their New Year’s gifts brought by Father Frost (“Ded Moroz”) and his granddaughter “Snegurochka”.
New Year’s Dinner
New Year in Russia is a family holiday. But if you get invited into a Russian home, you’re in for an amazing night! At around 10-11pm on New Year’s Eve, the whole family gathers together at a big table to give a farewell to the old year and welcome the coming one. The New Year’s festive table is overflowing with numerous delicious dishes and delicacies traditionally served during the holidays. It is a symbol of happiness and abundance for the upcoming year. Olivier salad (meat salad), caviar, Holodets (jelled minced meat), Pelmeni (meat dumplings), Herring salad, Vinaigrette (beets salad), and of course famous Soviet Champagne (“Sovetskoye Shampanskoye”) are the essential part of New Year’s celebration in Russia.
Before the stroke of midnight, Russian families turn their TVs on to listen to the President who addresses the nation with a short speech in which he reflects on the past year and thanks everyone for their support. Right after the speech, the Kremlin chimes start counting down the last ten seconds of the year. When the midnight bell rings twelve people break open the champagne bottles, raise toasts, and wish each other ‘Happy New Year!’ (“S novym Godom”). People believe that every wish that is made while chimes are striking will come true.
New Year’s Gifts & Fireworks
Right after midnight children and grown-ups rush outside to enjoy colorful fireworks, a big part of New Year’s Day in Russian. Beautiful fireworks are followed by exchanging of New Year Gifts. If children are already asleep they will find their sweet gifts and wrapped presents the next morning under the Christmas tree.
Santa Claus vs. Father Frost and Snow Maiden
Instead of Santa, Russian children believe in the no less mythical Father Frost who wears a long blue or red fur coat, a matching hat, and carries gifts in a large bag on his back. Unlike Santa, Father Frost drives three horses and has a magic staff that has the power to freeze everything around him. His granddaughter, the Snow Maiden (“Snegurochka”) wearing a blue coat with either a blue hat or a crown usually accompanies him and helps distributing gifts between children.
To learn more about holidays in Russia please visit www.RussianFlora.com