New Years Eve Russia

 

Divided in eleven time zones, Russia can be said to get struck eleven times by the moment of the arrival of New Year. During New Years Eve, people from all over Russia come together to celebrate New Year with lot of fervour and joy. It is a time of the year, when they forget the differences of religion, geography, and ideologies, and instead believe in enthusiastic celebrations of New Year, a festival which belongs to everyone.  People love to spend the special time of the year with the members of their family and close friends. However, it is not necessarily an at home event. If is was to be at home, people usually serve guests with ‘special' delicacies and salads.

Those with a plan to celebrate with their friends usually go out to enjoy city festivities. Many cultural programs are also organized for the evening. The midnight hour entices many to gather at the famous squares in the city. Anadyr in far Eastern Siberia is the first place in Russia to witness the arrival of New Year. Red Square is one of the most popular places to witness spectacular midnight firework shows, and other cultural programs.  At the stroke of midnight, most of the Russians break open the champagne bottle, and raise a toast on the name of the New Year. In the Kremlin, the midnight bell rings twelve, thus announcing an official arrival of the New Year. As soon as that occurs, people cheer out loud, and wish everyone around with ‘Happy New Year!' or ‘Snovum Godom'.  There are certain traditions, which are religiously followed by most of the people on New Years Eve in Russia. Future telling is one ancient tradition, which is observed with humour and satire now days.  There is another tradition of decorating house and streets with colourful balls, illuminating fancy lights, tinsels and trees, which in the local language is referred as ‘Novogodnaya Yolka'.

Christmas is celebrated slightly differently in Russian culture. A fir tree (Christmas tree) is not decorated for Christmas within Russian culture, it is decorated for the New Year’s celebration.  Originally Peter the Great instigated the tradition of decorating a fir tree for Christmas. Unfortunately after the 1917 revolution in 1917 such decorating declined. This culminated in the abolishment of Christmas in 1929 ostensibly due to the ‘Mass Struggle With religion’.

Decoration of a tree was revived in 1935. However, from now on it was dedicated to the New Year’s celebration. It is interesting to note that other Christmas traditions were inherited by New Years Eve. A Christmas tree became a New Year’s tree, Christmas gifts became New Year’s gifts. Although, religion is no longer banned in Russia, New Year is still celebrated in Russian culture like Christmas in western culture. The New Year celebration has become as big as Christmas once was.

Also, gifts are placed beneath the trees to be later picked and unpacked by small children on the morning of New Year's Day. Traditionally, Ded Moroz and Snegurochka are credited as those leaving gifts behind on New Years Eve. According to legends, Peter the Great commenced this tradition.  You will see Ded Moroz wearing a red coat and hat, while his granddaughter, usually with a long blond plait wears a blue coat with either a blue hat or a crown.

Peter the Great is also associated with the tradition of bursting of firecrackers. In his declaration, he told everyone to either burst three rockets in the midnight, or fire a musket (if one had one) three times on the stroke of midnight.

No matter what city, or town you are in there will be something on. Naturally the larger cities will have the most spectacular events as they are more likely to attract the worlds media! Narrowing it down even further the two most notable are Moscow and St Petersburg

St Petersburg

The grand boulevards and bridges of St. Petersburg are at their most beautiful covered with a layer of snow and illuminated by holiday lights. The lavish Hermitage Museum is particularly striking on December 31, when it’s surrounded by crowds waiting for the fireworks show over the frozen Neva River. As the clock ticks down, they drink champagne and send hundreds of paper lanterns up into the night sky.

Russians celebrate both Catholic Christmas on December 25 and Orthodox Christmas on January 7, so visiting at New years means you experience the middle of the holiday season, when the city’s main street, Nevsky Prospect, is decorated with Christmas lights and images of Father Frost (the Russian version of Santa). Many Russians turn out yet again on January 13 to celebrate Old New Year, a remnant of the Julian calendar used prior to the Revolution.