One of Russia’s most important holidays is New Year’s. When Christmas was outlawed in the Soviet Union, many of its related customs were transferred to New Year. It became a special day for gathering family and friends around the (New Year’s) tree, gift-giving, and overeating. While Christmas has returned to the calendar, New Year has not yet lost its place. Here are some of Russia’s greatest New Year’s customs, ranging from Father Frost to Herring in Fur Coats.
Begin the year with a thorough cleaning
On New Year’s Day in Russia, people traditionally forgive those who have mistreated them, settle their debts, and clean up their homes. Many Russians will start the year with a clean body and soul in addition to cleaning the house by scheduling a banya, or at the absolute least, taking a really hot bath on December 31.
Banyas are an essential component of Russian culture. They usually consist of a steam chamber with wooden benches around the outside and an altar-style bench in the center of the room for treatments. The therapy entails being thrashed by huge birch leaves before being submerged in an ice-cold bucket or pool. People in Siberia have historically preferred to lay on the snow rather than immerse themselves in frigid water.
Watching a screwball comedy is a must
Every year, millions of Russians tune in to see The Irony of Fate, a 1976 Soviet screwball comedy. In the film, Zhenya intends to spend New Year’s Eve with his girlfriend, but after getting drunk with his friends at the Sanduny Baths, he finds up on a flight to St. Petersburg instead. He drunkenly orders a cab to what he believes is his house, only to be awakened by Nadya. We won’t give away the finale.
Prepare to meet Ded Moroz (Father Frost)
Ded Moroz, often known as Father Frost, is Russia’s version of Santa Claus. Unlike Santa, he usually appears on New Year’s Eve with gifts for well-behaved youngsters. He dresses in a long blue or red fur coat, a matching cap, and felt boots, and carries gifts on his back in a large sack. He doesn’t, however, require reindeer to move about. As an athletic Russian guy, he travels the nation on skis, treks, or by troika carriage. He also carries a mystical stick with which he can freeze anything around him. And, unlike Santa, he doesn’t sneak about at night; instead, he’s eager to reveal his face and drop by a Christmas party to deliver presents.
His granddaughter Snegurichka, the Snow Maiden, is also attending. She frequently has a long blond braid and wears a blue and white fur coat. Grandfather Frost reportedly resides outside of the Vologda Region, close to Veliky Ustyug, while she apparently resides in Kostroma, on the Volga river.
Your wish will not come true until you complete the following three steps…
Thinking about what you want to happen next year isn’t going to cut it in Russia. You must put up much effort to ensure that your dream becomes a reality. To begin, write it down on a piece of paper. Then you must burn it. Then, pour the ashes into a glass of champagne and take a large sip.
Salad to celebrate
If you’ve ever visited Russia, you’ll know that salads are a huge thing. Not the light leaf sort, but robust meals with at least a kilogram of mayonnaise – and New Year’s Eve is no exception. The ‘Olivier Salad’ (prepared with mayo, potatoes, carrots, green peas, eggs, and chicken) and the ‘Herring under Fur Coat’ are two of the most common salads on the menu (layered herring, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, and mayonnaise).
Champagne – generally the Sovietskoye variety – and caviar served on buttered toast are other favorite feasting foods. Surprisingly, mandarin oranges are also a favorite. The custom dates back to Nicholas II, but it was only in the late 1970s that the Soviet authorities began importing them.
Double the fun!
In Russia, there are two New Year’s Eves. According to the Orthodox or Julian calendar, the ‘Old’ New Year’s Eve is on January 14th. This event is generally significantly smaller than the first. The ‘New’ New Year’s Eve, like the rest of the Western world, occurs on December 31st. The ancient celebrations have now been surpassed as the most significant day in the calendar.
It became a holiday only when Russia moved from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Christmas was prohibited during the Soviet era, thus New Year’s Eve became the day to celebrate.