On this day people wish happiness on other, full of joyful hope. They make wishes that will come true in the coming year to the chiming of Moscow’s Kremlin clock. Traditionally New Year’s Eve is a family celebration. It is a custom to celebrate the holiday among family or close friends.
The tradition of celebrating New Year’s Eve late on December 31st until early January 1st began not so long ago. Until almost the end of the XV century the celebration of the farewell ceremony to Old Year and the welcoming of New Year took place in March, and at the end of the XV century it was changed to September. Until the XVII century New Year’s was more of a religious holiday.
Traits of the Celebration in Russia
Peter the Great in the year 7208 (at that time years were tied to the creation of the world) published a decree that tied years to the birth of Jesus. The same decree set the day of the start of a New Year in Russia on January 1, like in Europe. The decree provided for the decoration of the gates with conifer branches, celebratory gunfire and bonfires.
The holiday took root in Russia, and for over 300 years we have been celebrating it with New Year Trees, a full dinner table, and winter merrymaking. There was a short disruption during the Soviet era from 1929 to 1947 during which time January 1st was an ordinary working day. The truth is since 1935 New Year’s celebrations were organized for children, and since January 1, 1948 this day became a Public Holiday.
Essential Elements of the Celebration
So, how do Russians traditionally celebrate New Year’s Eve? The celebration begins by bidding farewell to the Old Year usually at 10 PM. People gather around a table that traditionally is abundant with food. It is a token of plenty and prosperity for the coming year. It is a custom to recall every good thing brought by the outgoing year and raise a toast to make all troubles and misfortunes go away with it. Normally late on New Year’s Eve all the country’s TV channels race to entertain the viewers with funny and lyrical shows. The culmination of the night is the televised congratulation from the President of Russia and the chime of the Kremlin Clock, at which time people traditionally make wishes. In recent years a new tradition of shooting fireworks emerged. All holidays, and especially New Year’s Eve big cities are incessantly lit up with fireworks and salutes.
The Main New Year’s Eve Character
On New Year’s Eve everybody young and old waits for gifts from Ded Moroz. Kids during the holidays go to New Year’s Shows and wait for both Ded Moroz and his granddaughter Snegurochka. In Russia people imagine Ded Moroz very unlike Santa Claus. Only half a century ago this New Year’s Eve character used to be a fearsome and mighty master of Winter, able to freeze forests and rivers, people and animals. With time Ded Moroz became more good-natured, and began to bring us gifts and fulfill wishes. He is even-handed and brings gifts to those who deserve them by behaving well during the past year.
Ded Moroz arrives clad in a red fur coat with a white beard and an ice staff that he can use to freeze anybody it touches. His granddaughter and companion Snegurochka comes from Russian folklore. She was made of snow and began to appear at New Year’s Eve celebrations in 1937. As a rule, she is a young girl but can also be a small female toddler. Her garment bears features from the Russian traditional dress. Snegurochka arrives dressed in a fur coat resembling an apron dress. Her kokoshnik is an element of the festive Russian dress of an unmarried girl. She can also be wearing an elegant little hat. In Russia Ded Moroz has various palaces. They are Arkhangelsk, the first homeland of Ded Moroz, Lapland Reserve on the Kola Peninsula and the Great Ustyug, where there is a state project "Great Ustyug - birthplace of Ded Moroz."
Where to Celebrate New Year’s?
Great Ustyug is one of the most popular of family winter holiday centers. New Year’s Eve celebrations here are an attractive option. You can travel there with tourist trains from St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk and Moscow. On New Year’s Eve children send thousands of letters here, asking Ded Moroz for gifts and wishes. There is a special Ded Moroz’s post office. In Great Ustyug you can visit both the weekend and city residences of Ded Moroz. This is the place to escape from the city into a real winter with fresh white snow, meet fairytale characters who will help you become a child again. That is what New Year’s Eve looks like in Great Ustyug. Great Ustyug hosts the festive show “New Year Night Rendezvous”, mass skating and skiing, and snowmobile and snow saucer riding. It is a budget-friendly option to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Ded Moroz’s domain. It would be good to visit the city of Kostroma where on the bank of the Volga river there stands a luxurious Snegurochka’s palace.
Here you can wander in the ice halls, and visit a moose farm and the museums of this old city. New Year’s is the holiday that one should celebrate in Russia. It is the winter’s summit while the spring’s streams are already around the corner. But to make spring even more gratifying one should get a real taste of winter frost and enjoy winter sports. Mountain skiers have a few budget-friendly options in Russia. They should consider Elbrus, Dombai, and Krasnaya Polyana. They can have a great time skiing in Altai. There you have all kinds of entertainment, from horse and sled riding to barbequing on the bank of a frozen lake. You will remember its silence, white snow and pristine nature forever. You can go skiing inexpensively in the South Urals, at the Abzakovo resort. Karelia also has a great getaway offer. It is a country of fairytale forests and pristine nature which is fabulous all year round.
Those who are bold enough to travel here will enjoy the Russian steam sauna, ice-hole bathing, and the marvelous forest air.
It must be said that Moscow’s residents and visitors don’t have to leave the city. Its mere holiday decoration will keep you wandering around the city’s old streets, enjoying the winter fairytale Moscow turns into. You will have an unforgettable experience at the ice skating rink on the Red Square close to the Kremlin wall. You can also go to the largest ice skating rink in Moscow at VDNKh (the Russian acronym for the All-Union Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy). It lies between two famous fountains, the “Stone Flower” and the “Peoples’ Friendship”. It is surrounded by the pavilions of the Christmas Fair. All of Moscow’s theaters, circuses, and concert halls offer New Year’s Day shows for children at this time.
Many sites are open for street parties. St. Petersburg keeps up with Moscow on New Year’s. The city on the Neva river transforms on New Year’s Eve and becomes even more beautiful. New Year’s Eve is celebrated everywhere in Russia.
One of the most attractive places to celebrate New Year’s Eve is Listvyanka village at Lake Baikal. The world's largest fresh water lake offers marvelous conditions for winter recreation. The New Year’s Eve celebration there is remarkable and includes riding on a motor boat with a glass bottom that allows you to see through the depths of the crystal clear water to the mysterious underwater world. In addition to traditional skiing, you can ride on a dog sled, go ice diving or go up in a helicopter and get a bird's eye view of the unique lake.
You should not miss the public festivities. Here they include downhill riding on lambskins, bag fights, folk songs and dances, and snowball fights. New Year’s Eve in Russia is not just an outdoor activity, but also comes with wonderful Russian cuisine. Pancakes with sour cream, pies with cabbage, fish, and mushrooms, hot Borsh-soup and Siberian dumplings are sure to be remembered for those who decide to visit our country during the New Year's holidays.
There is an old folk saying: "The way you celebrate New Year’s Eve is the way you will live it." Celebrate it in Russia, you can’t go wrong!