New year is the biggest holiday in Russian culture. We often say: “Как встретишь Новый Год, так его и проведёшь” or “The way you spend New Year’s Eve is the way you will spend the rest of the year”. New Year’s eve is usually celebrated in a close family circle with sparkling wine and lots of good food.
Here is the video where I share all details about the Russian New Year celebration:
Why Christmas Tree is Decorated for New Year’s Eve?
As you may already know, Christmas is celebrated slightly differently in Russian culture. A fir tree (Christmas tree) is not decorated for Christmas in Russia, it’s decorated for New Year’s celebration. You can read about Russian Christmas celebration traditions in my article and video Christmas Magic in Russian Culture.
Peter the Great brought the tradition of decorating a fir tree for the holidays. However, only after 1840s Western tradition to decorate a fir tree for Christmas started becoming more and more popular in Russian culture. Unfortunately, after the revolution in 1917 tradition to decorate a Christmas tree started slowly dying away. In 1929 due to the mass struggle with religion, Christmas celebration was abolished completely.
Tradition to decorate a Christmas tree was revived in 1935, however, from now on it was dedicated to a completely different holiday – New Year’s celebration. Interestingly, other Christmas traditions were inherited for New Year’s celebration as well. Thus, Christmas tree became a New Year’s tree (Новогодняя ёлка [na-va-GOD-nya-ya YOL-ka]), Christmas gifts became New Year’s gifts (Новогодние подарки [na-va-GOD-nee-ye pa-DAR-kee]) in Russia.
Although, religion is no longer banned since 1991, New Year is still celebrated a la Western Christmas style in Russian culture.
New Year celebration has become as big as Christmas once was, and remains up to this day.
Santa Claus vs. Ded Moroz and Snegurochka
While in Russia, your gift will be carefully selected for you and brought by Дедушка (Дед) Мороз [DYE-doosh-ka (DYED) Moroz ] Dedushka (Ded) Moroz and his внучка Снегурочка [VNOOCH-ka snee-GOO-rach-ka] granddaughter Snegurochka. To make sure you don’t miss them, usually both of them wear blue coats. Although nowadays more often then not, you’ll see Ded Moroz wearing a red coat and a red hat, while his granddaughter with a long blond plait is wearing a blue coat and either a blue hat or a crown. They usually come at night on December 31st to bring presents for everyone.
If you are celebrating New Year in a Russian circle, don’t hesitate, wrap your New Year’s gift and put it under the New Year’s tree.
What Russian Celebration of New Year is Really Like?
Traditionally New Year is celebrated in a family circle or with close friends at home. Many yummy dishes are cooked for New Year’s eve. A bottle of Soviet sparkling wine (“Советское Шампанское”) or any other Campaign is a must, while celebrating Russian New Year.
Some of the traditional and most popular Russian New Year’s dishes are:
Холодец [ha-la-D’YETS] Holodets (jelled minced meat)
Салат «Оливье» [sa-LAT a-leev’-YE] salad “Olivie”
Салат «Винегрет» [sa-LAT vee-neeg-RYET] salad “Vinigret”
Сельдь под шубой [S’YEL’T’ pat SHOO-bay] salad “Herring in fur coat”
These are some of the most popular dishes that you might come across at Russian New Year’s parties.
Magical New Year’s Eve Celebration in Russian Culture
New Year’s Eve is on December 31st. Since I was very little, every year my family would start this day by getting ready for the big celebration: my Mom would invent new recipes in the kitchen, and my Dad would put the New Year’s lights up, and I would run around stores looking for accidentally forgotten ingredients. This day always seemed so magical…
During the last few days of December, every passer by will wish you “С Наступающим!” or “С Наступающим Новым Годом!”
С Наступающим (Новым Годом)! [s nas-too-PA-yoo-sheem NO-veem GO-dam] Happy soon coming (New Year)!
At around 10-11pm we set the table, sit down and give a farewell to the old year. Very often families turn their TV’s on to listen to the President’s speech on New Year’s Eve.
The President’s speech is usually followed by the chimes strike from Kremlin. Now, here is the most interesting and magic moment of the celebration – you can make a wish while chimes are striking New Year and will always come true!
There are a couple of ways to do it:
1. You can make a wish when the chimes are striking midnight and then have a sip of Champagne or sparkling wine.
2. Write down your wish on a tiny piece of paper while the Kremlin chimes are striking midnight, then burn it, soak it in a glass of Champagne and then drink it.
Rush outside right after the midnight to enjoy colorful fireworks – they are also a big part of the Russian New Year’s Eve.
Fireworks are followed by exchanging of New Year presents. If the children are asleep, they will find their gifts under the New Year tree in the morning.
Another unusual way to entertain yourself on New Year’s eve is to try to foretell your future. I gave a few examples of Russian fortune-telling in my article and video Christmas Magic in Russian Culture. Here are a few more:
1. Write down guys names on small pieces of paper and put them under your pillow on December 31st. Whatever name you pull from under the pillow on January 1st will be your husband’s name.
2. Turn the lights off, put a candle on. Crunch a piece of paper and put it on a plate, then lit it up with the candle, when it’s finished burning, pick it up and look at it’s reflection on the wall. You can predict your future from the figures you see in the reflection. For example, if you see a big bag, it’s most likely a bag of money, or if you see a handsome man – most likely a new boyfriend/husband.
3 .Try to remember what you were dreaming about from December 31st to January 1st. This dream will most likely predict what your future year will be like.
These are some of the fun things to do on Russian New Year’s eve. Of course, you can have your own Russian New Year party and make it as much fun as you like: invite your friends to a masquerade ball at your place, or a homemade dinner with lots of good food, music, and dancing. No matter how you decide to celebrate, you will always feel that special magic spirit of New Year’s Eve in Russian culture!
С Новым Годом, дорогие читатели!
[s NO-veem GO-dam da-ra-GEE-ye chee-TA-tye-lee]
Happy New Year, dear readers!
Don’t forget to make a wish while the Kremlin chimes are striking midnight on December 31st! May all of your wishes come true this year!
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