You should see Russia yourself to dispel myths about this country. Bitter winter days will become a good background which will help you to take in the country spirit. In winter, you’ll realize why vodka is a national Russian drink. Walking along the Red Square or the windy embankment of the Neva river, going to a pancake house, no tea will help you to get warm. And pancakes with caviar or redfish have a completely different taste with a vodka shot. And what if all holidays and festivities take place on the street? Imagine, New Year’s Eve, the central squares of the cities get overcrowded a few hours before the chime of bells. By the way, it’s always easy to distinguish foreign tourists in this crowd by their clothing: shapka-ushanka (hats with earflaps), which is a timeless trend, down-padded coats or sheepskin coats and knitted mittens. And what comes to Russia, our girls wear mini-skirts and high-heeled boots. Why is it like this? It’s because Russian people are always hot, no matter how cold it is outside
For over 300 years, Russians celebrate the New Year, and during this period a lot of traditions joined the celebration, both European and American, and the native ones, Soviet. The symbol of the holiday was a grandfather with a white beard, who is named Ded Moroz.
The Russian Ded Moroz is a modified version of the American Santa Claus. Ded Moroz has an assistant, a girl from the snow named Snegurochka. Annually, starting from the first days of December, this couple attends various New Year’s events, which are held in kindergartens, schools, and cultural centers. Children traditionally dance around a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, recite poems, sing songs and get wonderful gifts from Ded Moroz. The atmosphere of this holiday is everywhere. Carnival costumes, confetti, and tangerines make children happy, and it’ll stay in their memory for many years.
Since 1998, the Russian Ded Moroz has settled in the city called Veliky Ustyug. There are his residence, a souvenir shop and a post office there. A large number of letters from Russian children come from all over the country to Veliky Ustyug, and no letter remains unanswered. In letters, children ask for the things they don’t have. These are toys, usually, but there are also touching letters that make not only Ded Moroz but all his assistants shed a few tears.
What do you do on New Year’s Eve nowadays?
People are in pre-holiday euphoria and day after day they plan the celebration of New Year’s Eve. They buy gifts, think about a festive menu, and almost all alcohol and delicacies disappear from the shelves of all the shops in the country on December 31.
There are also rooted traditions since the times of the USSR, and they are considered to be the Russian ones: raise glasses to the chimes of Kremlin bells, a well-known salad «Olivier» and Bengal lights, it is difficult to imagine a New Year’s party without it.
December 31 is the main day of preparation. On this day, people are trying to complete all the unfinished tasks, distribute debts, clean up the house, decorate the New Year tree. It is believed that entering the new year without cleaning up the mess of the old, outgoing year, a bad omen. «The way one sees the New Year in it will be the way one spends it» is the most common saying in Russia. The decoration of the Christmas tree became an annual tradition for many families, and usually, the whole family does that together.
The spirit of the holiday is already hanging in the air, versatile fragrances are heard from the kitchen, and the children are singing a song «A Christmas tree is born in the forest,» and they’re clinging colored balls and cones, candy, silver «rain» to the green branches.
The culmination of New Year’s Eve
The New Year celebration begins with ringing the old year out. Usually, at 10 pm the table is already set, the guests are dressed in festive clothes, and on TV all the television channels broadcast the Goluboy ogonyok (a popular musical variety show aired on Soviet television during various holidays). Those gathered at the table are discussing the events of the outgoing year, sum up the results and wish each other to multiply achieved and conquer new peaks. There is usually a salad «Olivier,» «Dressed herring,» an aspic and stuffed cabbage. New Year’s table must be full of traditional food; this is another folk belief. In order not to starve in the coming year, you need to see the New Year in it well.
The culmination of the holiday is coming. The New Year’s speech of the head of state and the chimes of Kremlin bells. Usually, the speech addressed to the citizens of the Russian Federation begins at 23-55 and is broadcast by the media. The head of state sums up the results, gives a short report on the work done for the year and wishes everyone good luck and prosperity in the New Year.
Exactly at 0.00, the chimes of Kremlin bells are ringing. These sounds encourage to open a bottle of champagne and making wishes. It is believed that the wish you made at this moment, will necessarily come true. Some people manage to write it on a piece of paper during the chime of Kremlin bells, burn it, and dissolve the ash in a glass of champagne. According to some people, this ritual multiplies the likelihood the wish will come true. From all windows the fireworks are shot off, joyful shouts and congratulations are heard in every house. Many people go out and shoot off fireworks, people sing songs and congratulate each other on the squares. Anyone who sleeps in the New Year will be sluggish and sleepy in the coming year, for this reason, the people are having fun until they fall, going home only in the morning.
As you can see, the celebration of the New Year in Russia has its unique history. Russians borrowed many traditions, but there are also traditions inherent only to citizens of the Russian Federation. For example, what could be better than a Russian banya (a traditional Russian steam bath) on December 31? Any holiday becomes brighter with pure thoughts in a pure body!
Maslenitsa is one of the most traditional and mirthful festivals. The whole week Russians are seeing off winter, making pancakes and visiting each other. It’s kind of a carnival for Russians. Moreover, when you translate «carnival» from Italian, it means «goodbye beef!». Maslenitsa, which takes place before the Great Lent, has been called “Myasopust” (what means “without meat”) because it’s forbidden to eat meat this week.
However, it’s not everything about Maslenitsa. For the Slavs, it was a time to see in the New Year! After all, the new year in Russia began in March until the XIV century. Pancakes, what are an indispensable attribute of the Maslenitsa, had a ritual meaning: round, ruddy, hot — they were a symbol of the sun, which grew brighter, extending the days. And according to old beliefs, it was considered that the way one sees the New Year in it would be the way one spends it. Therefore, our ancestors did not skimp on this holiday for a bountiful feast and unrestrained merriment. And they called Maslenitsa «honest,» «broad,» «gluttony,» and even «ruiner» among the people.
The culmination of the Maslenitsa remains the burning of stuffed Winter — a symbol of the winter departure and the arrival of spring. Preceding this ritual, a scarecrow burning, the song, games, dances, roundelays, accompanied by a treat of hot sbitn (warm winter Russian traditional drink) and pancakes, as well as the so-called scones lark. As a sacrifice, a funny and at the same time a terrible doll was made for the holiday, which personified a stuffed Shrovetide from straw or rags. Such a stuffed woman was usually dressed in women’s clothes, like an ancient and quite sacred image of a deity. Then they carried this scarecrow through the whole village; coming out of the village, it was heated in an ice-hole or burned or torn to pieces, and the remaining straw was scattered across the field. Sometimes instead of a scarecrow, alive «Maslenitsa» was taken around the village. It was a smartly dressed girl or woman, an old woman or even an old man. Then this person was taken out of the village and thrown into the snow.
Another version of the rite of burning the Maslenitsa looks like this: a little doll of decent size is taken out on the sled, which is necessarily dressed in a national costume. It was Winter. It is installed in the center of the campfire site, and all the people say goodbye to Winter with jokes, songs, dances, scolding it for the frost and winter hunger and at the same time thanks to the merry winter fun. After that, the scarecrow was burned. When the doll burns down, the holiday ends, where the youth jumps over the fire.
New Year and Maslenitsa are considered to be the most traditional holidays in Russia. If you always wanted to find out the true Russian color, then these are the recommended events to visit.