New Years customs

New Years and Russian Christmas Customs

St Petersburg, Russia

Russian old proverb - “How you will meet New Year, the same way you will spend it”.

In Russia, ringing in the New Year is the ultimate holiday. Christmas was forbidden during the Soviet times. To continue their precious traditions, the people resourcefully continued their customs.

Some Russians celebrate for weeks by joining in the Christian Christmas on December 25th. Then on to New Year, Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7th and “Old New Year” on January 13th.

Peter the Great introduced the January 1st celebration of New Year to Russia to be more in line with the European countries. Before the revolution in Russia, they were following the Julian calendar, which is still followed by the Russian Orthodox Churches.

The first major celebrations were held outdoors in a square near Peter and Paul Fortress and included masquerade parties. Peter I attended and mandated that his noblemen participate also. If they had an excuse, such as being sick, they were sent to the doctor to be checked. If they were not really sick, they were given a fine – drink a large glass of vodka in front of everyone.

The enchantment of the Russian winter is everywhere, with magnificent light displays, fireworks, Christmas markets, theater performances, ice skating, gloriously illuminated churches and palaces and a thousand nightclubs.

Parties - with lots of toasts with champagne, singing, dancing and presents are something of the festivities everyone looks forward to all year.

Holiday Meals - Food is a very significant part of the celebrations. Families and friends gather to share the long held customary dishes such as herring, roasted chicken, vegetables that are pickled, stuffed cabbage and wonderful sweet treats.

A couple of the most famous Russian dishes are:

  • Olivier salad (potato salad with diced carrots and potatoes, chicken, eggs, onions and sweet peas with sour cream and mayonnaise)
  • Mandarin Oranges

New Year Tree – the customary New Year tree, Novogodnaya yolka, is a central part of the parties and celebrations. Families decorate the tree together.

Santa Claus – or Father Frost, “Ded Moroz”brings gifts and hope for a happy and prosperous New Year. Father Frost’s granddaughter, the Snow Maiden, Snegurochka, travels with him sometimes.

Fireworks – at the stroke of midnight, Russians are treated to a beautiful fireworks display close to the Moika Palace and Summer Garden on the Neva River.

Wish burning – wishes for the New Year are written on paper and then burned. Ashes are then dropped

in a glass of champagne. The drinking of this drink is the hope that the wish will come true in the New Year.

Outdoor Activities – Some of the crowd will visit outside with friends and family, making toasts with their champagne and wishing all a happy new year.

2016 Events

  • The Tsar’s Ball - at Catherine’s Palace is the most extravagant, cultural event of New Year Eve
  • Ice Sculpture Festival – this is one of the main events in the city. Peter and Paul Fortress turns into an enchanted land from December 24 thru January 29.
  • Nevsky Prospect - St Petersburg’s main street, has entertainment along the beautiful boulevard
  • St Isaac’s Cathedral - offers a spot to celebrate for more than 2,000 people.
  • The Palace square - across from the Hermitage, crowds gather to celebrate around the huge New Year tree for the key city concert and at 12:55 they watch a huge video screen projected on the Winter Palace wall to listen to the president speak and make a wish with a champagne toast.
  • Gatchina Grand Palace – hosts a fair and fireworks at the State Museum, with fun for children and adults.
  • Saxophone Show - at Mikhailovsky Castle
  • Philharmonic Orchestra Concert - at the St Petersburg Court Chapel
  • Expoforum festival - “Mirovoy Novyi God 2017”

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