For many countries, the majority of winter holidays have passed, but this is not the case in Russia! In fact, Russian New Year’s Eve trumps Christmas in importance, with significant celebrations occurring all over the country in recognition of the holiday.
There are actually two New Year’s holidays celebrated in Russia. Russia’s “Old” New Year is celebrated on January 14th according to the Julian, or Orthodox, calendar. This celebration is the smaller of the two New Year’s holidays, and Russians usually spend the day with family.
The “New” New Year’s celebrations occur as most would expect, on December 31st and January 1st. To celebrate this holiday, many Russians attend concerts or fireworks displays, with the largest located at the Red Square. On December 31st, most families have a very late dinner including Russian salads, herring, and sparkling wine. A short presidential address comes on TV at 11:55 pm local time in each of Russia’s time zones, and the president reflects on achievements from the last year. At midnight, the Kremlin Spasskaya Clock Tower chimes and the Russian national anthem begins. Now is when the festivities really begin! Many Russians spend December 31st with family and only leave the house after midnight to see friends or enjoy New Year’s Eve parties and nightlife.
January first is considered the “New” New Year since it was only recognized as a holiday once Russia switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. During the Soviet era, New Year’s was celebrated instead of Christmas, but Christmas is now regaining importance. Still, New Year’s Day is when the Russian Santa, Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), visits children to pass out gifts. Instead of elves, he brings along his granddaughter, Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden), to help him. Rather than having Christmas trees, families decorate a New Year’s tree, called a Novogodnaya Yolka, and it is left up to celebrate both New Year’s holidays.
- Russians welcome the New Year by saying “S Novim Godom!” (С Новым годом!)
- New Year’s isn’t complete without traditional Russian salads. The most popular is Olivier salad, which includes potatoes, carrots, pickles, green peas, eggs, chicken or bologna, and mayonnaise.
- Christmas is observed on January 7 in Russia, per the Julian calendar used by the Russian Orthodox Church.
For more information on the Russian New Year visit: