Understanding New Years in Russia

Ded MorozIn Russia, the New Year celebration is as big as any celebration they have!  It is an amazingly big deal!  It is much bigger than Christmas or any other celebration. On New Years, the Russian Santa – “Ded Moroz”, or “Grandfather Frost” – and his companion, “Sneguroshka” or “Snow Maiden” visit children and pass out gifts (see picture).  The celebrations are similar to what the West calls Christmas, to the point that a tree is even brought out and decorated.  That same tree remains in part of the celebration of Russian Orthodox Christmas, which is January 7.

But, Russia didn’t always celebrate the new year on December 31/January 1.  Under the old Orthodox calendar, the new year occurred on March 1.  That ended in 1700 when Tsar Peter the Great decreed New Year to be celebrated on January 1, with the rest of Europe.  Today, Russians still celebrate the “Old New Year”. The party is far less lively than the party during the current New Years, as it is mostly a time for families to get together, sing carols, spend time and have a large meal.  The method of celebration would be similar to the Thanksgiving traditions in the United States.

Published on December 30, 2014.

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