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Russian Traditions Through the Year

Traditional Holidays, Festivals, Feasts, and Customs

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Russian traditions are one component of Russian culture that attract visitors to Europe's largest country. Most travelers may be familiar with common Christmas and Easter traditions, but Russians don't pay homage to their pagan and Christian ancestors' way of doing things only twice a year. The Russian annual traditions calendar is full of exciting, and sometimes strange, customs, from bathing in ice water at Epiphany to Ded Moroz's appearance on New Year's Eve.

This article deals with Russian traditions through the year. If you'd like to know when certain holidays occur, check out the Russian holidays page.

Russia's New Year

New Year's in Moscow
iStockphoto/Dontsov

The majority of Russians celebrate New Year's Day with the rest of the world on January 1st. But an older New Year's Day tradition sees the start of the year as January 14th. Russia's New Year celebrations include the lighting of the New Year's tree and a visit from Ded Moroz, the Russian Santa.

Christmas

Russian Christmas Decoration
CC BY-NC-ND blahmni

Christmas in Russia occurs in January. Eclipsed by New Year's celebrations, Russian Christmas is somewhat less important than it is in other Eastern European nations. Christmas is a time for visiting family, attending church services, and enjoying a Christmas feast.

Sviatki, Russian Christmastide

Russian Epiphany
iStockphoto/mcseem

Sviatki, or Svyatki, falls between January 7th (Orthodox Christmas) and January 19th (Epiphany). Christmastide is a time for remembering old traditions, like fortune telling and carolling. The most devout end this religious period by taking a dip in the icy water of a river or stream, said to be bestowed with magical powers on Epiphany.

Maslenitsa

Burning the Maslenitsa Effigy
CC BY-NC zigel

Maslenitsa is Russia's festive pre-Lenten custom. Children play games, mothers and grandmothers cook up big stacks of pancakes, and cities hold festivals during which the effigy of Maslenitsa herself is burnt in order to welcome springtime weather and the return of the sun.

Easter

Russian Easter Eggs
CC BY-NC-ND Else10

Predominately Orthodox, Russians celebrate Easter according to the Eastern calendar. The Easter church service begins the night before. Candles serve to light the church until dawn breaks, and bells announce the arrival of Easter. Easter eggs and Easter foods are an important part of Russian Easter customs.

Victory Day

Eternal Flame in Moscow
CC BY-NC-SA Piero Sierra

Victory day remembers service members and Russia's participation in WWII. This day is typically marked with parades, the military parade on Red Square being the largest and best known.

Russian Winter Festival

Russian Ice Sculpture
CC by nd Sputnik Mania

Winter in Russia is long and hard, but Russians know how to inject fun into even sub-zero weather. It begins in December and continues into January. The winter festival isn't limited to Moscow; cities across Russia alleviate the darkness of winter by hosting winter-festival-related events.

Year-Round Traditions

Samovar with Bubliki
iStockphoto/Yudina

Some Russian traditions can be experience year-round. Read more about:

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