Winter in Russia is fierce, Russian holidays are just the opposite. From the New Year's Eve to the Defender of the Fatherland Day, each one of them is full of genuine warmth.
The first and most important holiday of the year is, of course, New Year’s Eve. Over the past few years New Year’s Eve celebrations have been evolving into colorful and prolonged New Year’s vacations (up to 10 non-working days) not only for children, but for grown-ups as well.
All Russian residents celebrate New Year’s Eve, like others worldwide, on the evening of Dec 31 until Jan 1. They celebrate big time, thanks to so many non-working days declared by the government.
And after New Year’s Eve and Christmas Russians celebrate a very interesting holiday. Its name can be confusing for the uninformed person: Old New Year’s Eve. It emerged in 1918, when the country switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, because many citizens continued to observe New Year’s Eve on the habitual day, but without disregarding the new holiday. This is how this odd tradition – to celebrate New Year’s Eve twice, on Dec 31 and Jan 13 – took shape.
January 19 – The Baptism of the Lord, the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. It is a religious, Christian holiday, but it gained popularity in Russia thanks to the tradition of ablution in water basins at midnight. Yes, yes, in Russia in January. Well, time of day is not really important. If it’s a couple of degrees colder, it still does not matter too much, since Jan 19 often turns out to be the coldest day of the month.
The holiday was originally observed as the day when Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter I, signed the Decree establishing Moscow University (now called Lomonosov Moscow State University), and later it became the holiday of all Russian students.
Many events for young people take place on this day, including open air concerts. Music clubs, concert halls, restaurants and museums offer big discounts to high school students on this day.
Maslenitsa is a pagan festival at the end of the winter. It was celebrated by the ancient Slavs. After the arrival of Christianity in Russia an attempt was made to adopt the festival. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent (it is calculated according to the Lunar calendar).Maslenitsa is a very beautiful, joyful and colorful holiday. It is celebrated, as mentioned above, during the whole week – from Monday through Sunday, reaching its culmination on the weekend, when most street parties and rituals take place.
Saint Valentine's Day, also called the Day of All Those Who Are in Love, is celebrated on Feb 14. This western holiday arrived in Russia not long ago, but has already become well loved. Concerts are organized to celebrate the holiday; almost all restaurants and clubs also take the opportunity to make extra money off parties, offering discounts for lovers and playing romantic music. People summon the courage to declare their love, and give their loved ones gifts. Shops offer holiday discounts and beautifully decorate their windows.
February 23 is The Defender of the Fatherland Day. It is, in essence, a professional military holiday. But in Russia it is a holiday for all men. Father's Day is not observed in the country on a regular basis, while military service is mandatory. So it has become a tradition to congratulate fathers, grandfathers, as well as male children, friends and colleagues while you’re at it. On this day men usually receive gifts. Companies and firms congratulate their employees on the day before the holiday, on Feb 22. The holiday is celebrated big time, concerts are held (usually, the performances have militaristic themes), and in the evening at 10 PM there are always fireworks.