Russian New Year Traditions that Always Amaze Foreigners

Richard November 27, 2019

I’m very glad to introduce Julia Anekova from Enjoy Russian Language School! Enjoy Russian offers Russian language immersion programs in Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Karelia region next to St. Petersburg. You can find more about their courses here. Without further ado, please read on to learn more about Russian New Year and holiday traditions from Julia!

Surprisingly, more and more foreigners come to Russia to celebrate the New Year. On the one hand, you enjoy the beauty of winter wonderland, Christmas lights (and Northern lights!), delicious and filling Russian cuisine. And on the other hand, you observe really WEIRD traditions of people around. Why do they EAT PAPER? Why do they watch the same movies again and again? What’s the point in putting mice all over the apartment? Let’s get more into that.

Russian New Year Tradition Champagne Wish

Russians do eat paper

Not because it’s the most delicious food on the Russian New Year table. Olivier salad or mom’s recipe fried chicken are definitely way better. Yet one cannot MAKE A WISH by eating salad. So if you want to become the happiest person in the year to come, follow these steps:

  • Wait until 11:55 pm
  • Pop open the champagne and fill your glasses up
  • Wait for the president to start his speech
  • Write your wish on a piece of paper, set it on fire, and throw the ashes into your champagne glass and drink it up at midnight. Done! Easy, right?

Russians do cook a lot

What’s the main task for every Russian housewife on 31 December?  Cook as much food as you can, as you won’t be able to cook for another 8-10 days. Really, it always works like this. New Year holidays in Russia is a pretty long period and everybody wants to RELAX and escape from daily routines such as cooking or cleaning. “I can keep staring at our full fridge forever!” This is probably one of the most popular phrases on 30-31 December. One important tip – do not try to cook everything on your own. Instead, divide the tasks between family members so everyone can have fun.

Russians love buying New Year zodiac symbols

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2020’s symbol is Metal rat. “Ok, a rat is a rat” think people all over the world. But not Russians! They should buy as many rats for their New Year décor as they possibly can. Toys, calendars, candles, soap, pillows, phone cases… it all should be rat-patterned. Young generation tends to diminish such an obsession, however, Russian grandmas and grandpas believe that it is very important.  Only one question arises… What will they do with all these things after 2020 is gone?

Good old movies are never out of style!

What do you usually watch on New Year’s Eve? 9 out of 10 Russians will probably say “The Irony of Fate”. Even though the movie is very romantic and sweet, both men and women are ready to watch it over and over again. It’s like another symbol of every Russian New Year. Sometimes you don’t have to watch it from start to finish, just make sure it is on while you’re cooking or getting dressed. Another important New Year’s movie is “Ivan Vasilyevich: Back to the future.”  A mystical time machine, talented Soviet engineer, tsars and dukes meet each other in one epic story by an outstanding Soviet director – Leonid Gaidai. This film will never go out of style!

Here are five movies Russians watch during the holidays and on New Year’s Eve

  1. The Irony of Fate (Ирония судьбы), 1975
  2. Winter in Prostokvashino (cartoon), 1984
  3. “Ivan Vasilyevich: Back to the future” (Иван Васильевич меняет профессию), 1973
  4. Yolki (Ёлки), 2010
  5. Carnavalnaya Noch (Карнавальная ночь), 1956

They never stay at home after midnight

Dinner, presents, а couple of Christmas songs and go to sleep. No. Never! Russians prefer to eat their wish at midnight (Fact 1) and stumble out of their houses. Every city in Russia (village/town is not an exeption) has a central square with the main Christmas tree. Everyone comes there to sing and dance together, meet friends and drink champagne. Moreover, it always becomes the best viewpoint from which citizens may observe the brightest fireworks throughout the whole year. Since this is the most important holiday for Russians, they never leave kids at home (pets go to the celebration too).

As you may know, each culture is unique, each nationality is diverse and little bit weird. But without all these weird things life would be just a tasteless yogurt without any interest to discover it layer by layer. So come to Russia to participate in the celebrations and don’t forget to pay a visit to Enjoy Eussian School!

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