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The Russian New Year

Russia's New New Year, Old New Year, and New Year Traditions and Celebrations


New Years in Moscow
quartz64/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

In Russia, the New Year holiday trumps even Christmas in importance, and major celebrations take place all over the country in recognition of the day. There is also a second New Year recognized in Russia – the Old New Year, which takes place after the regular New Year more universally observed.

Russia's “New” New Year

The most extensive New Year celebrations in Russia occur on December 31st/January 1st. Fireworks and concerts mark this holiday. It is on this day that the Russian Santa, or Ded Moroz, and his companion Sengurochka visit children to pass out gifts. What those in the West would call a Christmas Tree is considered a New Year's Tree in Russia. Because the first Russian New Year precedes Christmas in Russia on January 7, this tree is left up in honor of both holidays.

This New Year is considered the “New” New Year because began to be recognized after Russia made the switch from the Julian calendar (still recognized by the Orthodox Church) to the Gregorian calendar followed by the West. During the Soviet period, the New Year was celebrated in place of Christmas, though Christmas has been regaining importance as a holiday once again.

Russians welcome the New Year by saying “S Novim Godom!” (С Новым годом!)

Russia's Old New Year

Russians have a second opportunity to celebrate the New Year, which falls on January 14th according to the old Orthodox calendar. This “Old New Year” (Старый Новый год) is spent with family and is generally quieter than the New Year celebrated on January 1st. Folk traditions, like the singing of carols and the telling of fortunes, may be observed during Russia's Old New Year, and a large meal will be served.

Celebrating Russian New Year

If you're in Moscow, you can head to Red Square to experience the most popular public New Year celebrations, but you can just as easily avoid the crush of people drinking traditional Russian food, and the hostess may set up a zakuska table for her guests, so if you don't have any Russian friends, make some!

Other cities throughout Russia will also have their own fireworks displays or concerts to mark the change from the old year to the new.

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