New Year is the most beloved and expected holiday in Russia, which is more popular than Christmas. Some traditions that all Russians follow at this time seem strange for foreigners, however, if you are planning to celebrate New Year in the most mysterious country, you should know at least the main ones.
Big night from 31 December to 1 January.
The celebrations begin on 31 December
In the last day of the year you need to clean your home, decorate the tree (if you haven’t done this yet), cook A LOT of food, choose a fancy outfit, prepare the dining table, decorate your house, check and pack all the presents, dress up and be beautiful, fresh and smiling until the new year. This is the task for a special operative group of FBI or an ordinary Russian woman.
Royal dinner for New Year’s Eve.
For New Year celebrations a standard Russian family cooks enough to feed an army. Usually they have a few salads with plenty of mayonnaise, some cold and hot starters, one or two main courses and a cake. The main fruit for New Year is tangerine – seems like Russia is flooded with them from December to January. There is also lots of alcohol, so if on 1 January you wake up with your face in the salad, that means the celebration was brilliant!
No New Year without Champaign.No New Year without Champaign.
The most traditional drink for New Year’s Eve is Champaign. This tradition originates from the 1950s, when the government decided to demonstrate its support to people and announced that every Soviet family will have a bottle of Soviet Champaign for New Year celebration. Since then everyone drinks Champaign, even if normally they don’t like it. You should make a wish at midnight while the clock on the Kremlin’s tower is ringing, write it down on a piece of paper, burn it, throw the ashes into your glass of Champaign and drink it up. If you are quick enough, your wish will come true!
New Year Tree.
Just like in Western countries it is traditional to decorate the Christmas tree, in Russia we decorate New Year Tree. Actually, it used to be Christmas tree before the revolution in 1917, and after that the atheistic Soviet government substituted Christmas with New Year. Everything is done identically to the Christmas decorations in the West – but a week later.
Paper snow flakes
You will not see this anywhere except Russia. We cut beautiful and delicate snow flakes out of paper and put them on every possible surface. Most common place is windows and mirrors, and this indeed creates the feeling of a coming holiday!
Congratulations from the President
Most Russians celebrate New Year at home with their family. What do they normally do there? Watch TV! It is surprising how we are not tired of watching the same movies and songs over and over again every single year. But the culmination of this epic TV marathon is the New Year congratulations from the President broadcasted just a few minutes before midnight. The most patriotic citizens listen to in standing on their feet with a mandatory glass of Champaign in their hand.
Old New Year.
This is probably the most weird concept of the whole holiday period. After the revolution in 1917 Russia moved to the Western Gregorian calendar from the Julian one. However, everyone remembers the date of the New Year according to the Julian calendar, which comes a couple of weeks later – on 14 January by the Gregorian calendar. For us this is another good reason to celebrate, as there is never too much of a holiday!