According to numerous polls, the favorite festival of Russian people is New Year. I am no exception: New Year is my favorite celebration. Everything is filled with the special atmosphere. During this period, I believe in miracles more strongly than usual. Let’s speak about Russian culture again, about celebration of New Year.
But before describing the modern traditions of celebrating in details, I’ll write about the history of this holiday because I want you to know more about Russian culture and celebration of New Year in my country.
We celebrate New Year on the night of December 31st and into the morning of January 1st. But it was not always so. Up to 1700, this festival had been celebrated on September 1st. Our czar, Peter the Great (see the article about him here) issued an edict shifting the celebration of New Year from September 1st to January 1st.
The first “winter” New Year was held in the old capital (Moscow, on the Red Square) in 1701 with a military parade and fireworks. After 1704 the official festivities were moved to the new capital, St. Petersburg.
Originally, the symbols of this festival were not a fir tree, but rather fir or birch branches, which were decorated with tangerines, candies, nuts, apples.
The tradition of drinking champagne appeared only after the defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1813.
In the 19th century, New Year became one of the most beloved and long-awaited holiday. Across the country, magnificent mass celebrations, feasts, and public Christmas tree parties were arranged. It was then that the unchanging symbol of New Year appeared – Ded Moroz (Father Frost-Russian Santa), but those days, he didn’t have his granddaughter him. She accompanied him later to help him.
After The Russian Revolution, this wonderful holiday was forbidden. The new government canceled celebrations of New Year and Christmas, but many people continued to celebrate their favorite holiday secretly.
Until the 1st of January,1935 it was officially considered to be a normal working day. After 1935 New Year was given a second life in Russia. Gradually it returned to the traditions which we all appreciate and love nowadays: the decorating of the Christmas tree, drinking champagne, setting the table, giving gifts to each other. That time the new and delicious custom of Olivier preparing (the famous Russian New Year salad) appeared.
The Soviet New Year gave us two main characters who are always together -Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (the girl made of snow who helps the Russian Santa to present gifts). This couple visit all the various Christmas activities that take place in kindergartens, schools and so on. Children traditionally dance in a circle around a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, recite poems, sing songs and get wonderful gifts from Ded Moroz.
So how do Russian people celebrate New Year today?
We tend to celebrate New Year in a small circle of family and friends. The entire December Russian people are running like crazy across the shops buying presents, postcards and delicacies. There are some traditions which came to us from the West: reindeers, bells, Christmas wreaths.But there are traditions which are from the times of the Soviet Union: drinking champagne while the clock is chiming, the well-known salad «Olivier» on the table, and sparklers, without which it is difficult to imagine the New Year festivities.
For me personally, «Селедка под шубой» (Dressed herring) is the most amazing New Year’s salad, I adore it. In general, the New Year’s table should be set generously with a plenty of tasty salads, dishes and so on, because we have the belief that the richer your table is, the richer your year will be.
December, 31 is the main day of preparation. On this day, people are eager to complete all unfinished tasks, to pay off debts, tidy up the house, and decorate the Christmas tree. It is believed that if you start a new year with debts and in a bad mood, the coming Year brings you unhappiness. We have an amazing phrase “Как Новый год встретишь – так его и проведешь”, which means “You will live through the new year the same way you see it in”.
The amazing Russian comedies are on TV the whole day: «Ирония судьбы, или С легким паром!», «Джентльмены удачи», «Девчата», «Карнавальная ночь», «Иван Васильевич меняет профессию». (I really recommend that you watch them in order to learn Russian). Russians adore these films and they know all the brilliant phrases and quotes from these movies.
The New Year celebration begins with ringing the old year out. Usually at 10 p.m, the table is already set, the guests are dressed in festive clothes, and Little Blue Lights are broadcast on every TV channel. We discuss the events of the passing year at the table, summing up the results and wishing each other all the best.
Five minute till midnight at 23.55 We listen to the New Year speech of our president Putin. The head of the state sums up, gives a brief report on his work for the year and wishes us all good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
At exactly midnight, the clock chimes. These sounds encourage the opening of champagne and the making of wishes. It is believed that the wishes made at this moment will come true. Some people write their wishes on a piece of paper while the clock chiming, then burn it and the ash is dissolved in a glass of champagne. This ritual multiplies the likelihood that wish will come true. Cheers and congratulations are heard in every home. Many go out in the streets and launch fireworks, people sing songs and congratulate each other.
If you want to share how people celebrate this amazing fest in your country, write it below this article. I will be happy to read it.