In Russia, New Year trumps Christmas in significance. And you can celebrate it even twice! By Svetoslav Novakov, Intern at UniCredit GSS
Have you ever wondered why you cannot reach your Russian business partners once you have returned from your Christmas holidays? While for most of the world the Christmas fever is finally over (and some may heave a sigh of relief), in Russia, people are just at the start of their particular celebration journey.
The most comprehensive celebration occurs on 31 December when fireworks, concerts and the sound of pouring champagne accompany the entry into the New Year! Russians celebrate this day in the way others celebrate Christmas. There is a fir tree decorated especially for the New Year celebration, with garlands and Christmas balls filling the homes with color and creating a magic atmosphere.
In Russia, children believe in Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) as the one who is driving his three-horse carriage around the houses, stopping by their windows and letting the surprises under the New Year’s tree. The Russian version of Santa Claus distributes the gifts on the night of 31 December, helped by his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden).
The adults would stand up with their glasses while listening to the Kremlin bells chime and make a wish for the New Year. But New Year would not be such without a table brimming with a huge variety of dishes including protein-full and mayonnaise-thick “works of art”. Russian salad (called “Olivie” in Russian), caviar and champagne are New Year’s label.
New and old New Year
After adopting the Gregorian calendar that replaced the Julian counting, New Year moved from 14 January to 31 December. Russians like to party and so they started celebrating on both dates. The “Old New Year”, however, is not officially recognised as a national holiday and people usually observe it quietly at home.
And right amidst the two New Year's Eves people celebrate Orthodox Christmas. It is celebrated on 7 January and considered a purely religious event. On that occasion, Russians traditionally have a family dinner with an oven-roasted duck or goose.
The church services to worship the birth of Jesus Christ, however, take place in the preceding evening. In addition, there is an old tradition to tell fortunes, as the predictions made amid this time are believed to be the most precise. After midnight, single girls try to guess their future husbands, wedding days and other details. For this, they use mirrors (in the reflection they would see their future husbands), matches (the girl with the one burning faster will be the first to marry), reading coffee beans grouts and so on.
Approaching the end of the month, the day of the Holy Epiphany on 19 January comes with more particular habits. Believing that water on that day purifies from diseases and sins, faithful Russians cut cross-shaped holes in frozen rivers and lakes and take an icy bath to heal their souls.
If you happen to be a Christmas lover, disappointed that celebrations are over, you are still on time to enjoy these special days!