It’s Christmas day in Russia and to sum it up, here’s a little quote from my favorite Christmas movie, The Grinch!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something that he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

Christmas day in Russia is celebrated on January 7th and it goes by largely unnoticed. Believers may go to church, but for everyone else it seems to be just another day off from work. The national holiday is January 1st- January 9th. December 25 and 31 are regular working days here. Many stores are still working regular hours even on December 31st.

New Year’s decorations are still up and generally stay up until after the old New Year which is on the 14th of January. It’s the strangest thing to me to a.) celebrate the New Year much the same as Christmas and b.) to still be listening to Christmas music and seeing Christmas decorations 2 weeks after the New Year.

Let’s go back and talk about how the New Year was celebrated on December 31/Jan. 1.

Here are the similarities between the New Year celebration for Russians and Christmas for Westerners:

  • People are listening to Christmas songs on New Year’s.
  • The New Year is celebrated with a tree.
  • People give each other presents.
  • Ded Moroz and Snegurochka sneak gifts over which is similar to Santa Claus.
  • There’s a big feast New Year’s Eve much like the feast on Christmas day for Westerners.
  • There are huge discounts in stores.

Here are some differences:

  • New Year’s is not strictly a family occasion – it’s often celebrated with friends.
  • The New Year’s feast starts at around 9 or 10pm December 31st and continues until the president’s speech at midnight. The feast is served by courses: First course – appetizers or salads, second course – main dish, third course – dessert. Alcohol is served the whole time ?
  • Everyone watches the state channel, Channel 1 on TV. This is a broadcast of famous Russian singers who are performing the whole night as well as the president’s speech – which everyone watches.
  • Right before the president’s speech, many Russians like to ring in the new year by making wishes. Some do this, by writing down their wish on a piece of paper, burning it into ashes and dropping it in their glass of champagne. They then mix it and cheers to the new year (“С Новым годом”!) and drink it before the bell chimes midnight.
  • The Kurant (bell) in Moscow counts up to 12 not down from 10. For example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 -ураааа! and it’s the new year… In the USA, we count down from 10 (10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!!).
  • Everyone, including the children, stays up to watch the president’s speech which starts 7 hours earlier over in Vladivostok. (Keep in mind that Russia is huge and covers 11 time zones).
  • The feasting may end around 12, but party lasts till about 3-5 am. Children usually stay awake as long as they want and people help themselves to the leftovers throughout the night/morning.
  • Ded Moroz comes when Ded Moroz wants! Sometimes that sneaky duo comes when the kids are having New Year’s Eve dinner or while they are watching the president’s speech or maybe even the next morning. Somehow he never seems to disappoint!
  • No explanations are needed for Ded Moroz.

How does he get in?-Who cares! It’s Ded Moroz! He can do everything!

How does Ded Moroz get to all the houses?– He’s Ded Moroz PERIOD.

No explanations needed – the guy is like Superman!

What’s usually served at a New Year’s Eve feast?

Appetizers: Top left to right – Caviar, CHAMPAGNE!, Mandarins, Vinaigrette salad

Typical foods: Top left to right – Herring under a fur coat salad, Olivier salad, Mimosa salad, Kholodets (jellied meat)

New Years in the USA:

  • The tree usually goes down before the New Year.
  • Most people spend this holiday with friends (unlike Christmas which is mostly spent with only family).
  • We go to a party around 8 or 9 pm and eat appetizers.
  • We usually discuss what our New Year’s resolutions will be for the new year. **It’s ok to talk about New Year’s resolutions with others.
  • We watch the ball drop on TV in Times Square, NYC.
  • Couples kiss at midnight for luck.
  • We toast and cheers to the New Year just like the Russians do.