How Russians Celebrate New Year

Image of Russians toasting to the new year

Countries like Russia has a way of celebrating new year. To Russia, new year is not just a cross over to another year. The new year is a big holiday that deserve special celebration. Russians don’t just celebrate by wining and dining, but they seem to have built a pattern that can be said to be their traditional way of celebrating new year. Some Russians may not follow this pattern strictly due to religion, education, or exposure to different culture. Nevertheless, they are aware about this popular pattern of how Russians celebrate new year.

New year celebration to a Russian is like Christmas celebration to Christians from the western world, or Thanksgiving to an American. It is big. Russians don’t just look forward to the new year, but the big celebration with friends and family.

How Russians celebrate New Year.

Activities before 00:00

Image of new year dishes in Russia.

Winning and dinning starts on the eve of new year in Russia. Cooking starts right away during the day of the new year eve. Expected foods to have on the table include Russian Olivier salad, fruits, meats , breads, champaign, wine and any other food of interest to the family. By 8:00 to 9:00pm at night of December 31st, the table is expected to have been set. Friends and family members sit round the table, dine, wine, and share discussions on different topics. It’s a moment of reunion for some families, and a moment of getting to meet their children’s partner in person, for others.

All the chats, winning and dining help everyone to be fully awake for the moment. Immediately it is roughly 5 minutes to 12:00am of January 1st, depending on the time zone of each city, a pre-recorded president’s speech is broadcasted on the television.

Activities from 00:00

Image of Russians toasting to the new year

The president speak to the people of Russia, and when it is 00:00, he greets Russians happy new year. After this speech comes a ringing bell, the chimes (the clock in the Kremlin), and the national anthem of the country follows. Everyone is expected to stand and honour the country.

Interesting part and a unique culture of how Russians celebrates new year comes in syncronization with the chimes, the bell. Wishes and plans for the new year are written in small papers, they burn the papers in each of their glass cup of champaign and pour quantity of champaign they can drink at ones inside the cup and drink.  Some don’t follow this pattern but simply make wishes with their wine glasses raised up and toast to a new year, hoping for their wishes to come through. See more details about the ideology in burning papers below.

Shortly after this, you hear fireworks across the city. Party starts all over and greetings start flowing across family and friends.

New Year Entertainment in Russia

Image of comedy show in Russia

If you are a lover of evergreen music and movies, this is the moment you need to stay glued to your television screen. Most of Russians television channels play music and movies of 50’s, 60’s 70’s etc. old memories are always brought back to life from the eve of the new year.

It is important to also know that the longest holiday in Russia is for the new year. They are always given 8 days of holiday. From the 1st to the 8th of January. And on the 7th is the Orthodox Christmas day in Russia. This is to say, Russians don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December like the western world, and they don’t give holiday for it.

Why do Russians drink the ashes of the burned wishes and plans for the new year with champaign?

The reason seems not to be clear to anyone. The majority say it is just for wishes to come to pass. This is not enough to be a reason for such an interesting culture. Though, some do not agree this is a culture or tradition, rather just a habit.

Alina – ‘This ritual is something like fortune-telling, that’s why Russians like it I think.

Tatyana – ‘Oh my dear, it goes from fairytales. We always want somebody to make something for us, we expect magic to make us happy, even though we are hardworking.’

Sergey – ‘I don`t really understand this tradition,  since in my family we don`t set fire to wish notes) As far as I know, this is not a native Russian tradition, but imposed on people by movies.  As for me, we usually just pour champagne and make a wish under the chimes (the clock in the Kremlin). If we are talking about traditions, they mainly concern the New Year’s Eve table. There must be Olivier and herring under a fur coat salads, tangerines, red caviar and champagne. In addition to the table, traditions can also include the standard set of New Year’s movies: Soviet comedies and Hollywood classics.

Whatever you believe in, I pray your wishes will come through this year and years to come.

Other useful sources

Fortune-telling in Russia 

Eat a piece of paper during the chimes. New Year’s signs we believe in

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