Celebrations in Russia

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Last updated:
08.10.2020

Russia is well-known for its colorful customs and celebrations that attracts numerous travelers to the country each year. If you are eager to travel there during one of those festive events, make sure to catch the biggest ones! Here are our suggestions.

New Year in Russia

Without a doubt, the most anticipated holiday in Russia is New Year's. Unlike the Western World, Christmas there is a purely religious holiday, accompanied by beautiful church services and small family celebrations on occasion. But New Year's is a completely different case.

Starting from the first of December, the biggest country in the world starts the countdown. Christmas trees appear on the streets, shops put on the holiday decorations, and every kid in Russia crosses out the days in the calendar, dreaming of the 31st of December coming earlier. When the most magical day of the year is just around the corner, families start to decorate their homes and put up the Christmas trees.

Traditionally, New Year's Eve is the day when Russian families get together for dinner, and for the upcoming year to be generous and happy, the table has to groan with food and drinks. Dinner usually starts around 8 pm (with saying "goodbye" to the passing year and remembering all the good things it brought) and lasts till way after midnight (with people greeting and celebrating the new year).

And the next morning, there are presents waiting to be opened under the Christmas tree. They say Grandfather Frost (a Slavic version of Santa Claus) and his granddaughter, Snegurochka, brought the presents when everyone had finally gone to sleep.

Did You Know?
Russians call Santa Claus as "Ded Moroz," which means Grandfather Frost. It's a Slavic Santa who often wears a blue coat instead of red.

Easter in Russia

Despite being just as an important religious holiday as Christmas is, Orthodox Easter in Russia is celebrated way wider than the day when Christ was born. Russians call this holiday "Paskha" and usually celebrate it a couple of weeks after the rest of the world. Orthodox Christians base their calculations on the Julian Calendar while Catholics use the Gregorian one to determine when Easter is going to be this year.

On this day, don't be surprised if you hear someone telling you "Khristos voskres" ("Christ is risen") instead of "Hello". Just answer "Voistinu voskres" ("He is, indeed") and kiss this person 3 times on the cheeks. This greeting is believed to be a symbol of love and affection and it's one of the oldest Orthodox Easter traditions.

easter russia

The last Thursday before Easter is called a "Clean Thursday", on this day Russians clean the house before the celebration and families gather together to color the eggs.

The Big Day starts on Saturday evening with a huge church ceremony that lasts till the sunrise. You are welcome to bring the food you have prepared for the celebration to church with you where it will be blessed.

The traditional Russian Easter dishes are colored eggs (many Russians still prefer the natural way to dye eggs, using the red onion skins, beetroots, or spinach instead of chemicals), Kulich (special sweet Easter bread), and Paskha (a dessert made with cottage cheese and shaped like a truncated pyramid). But before the festive part, believers fast 40 days before Easter to prepare their body and soul. These 40 days are called the Great Lent and it starts with Maslenitsa.

Russian Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa, Russia's version of the pancake day, lasts for the whole week and is believed to be the second oldest Slavic holiday.

This holiday week is a way to say “goodbye” to winter and greet long-awaited spring. It's the last week before the Great Lent with meat dishes being already forbidden, but dairy products and eggs are still allowed.

maslenitsa

Unsurprisingly, this week is celebrated by making Russian bliny. They look like very thin and rather big pancakes, the receipt is based on butter, eggs, and milk. And the food is not the only thing Russians refrain themselves from during the Great Lent. Throughout this time, believers are not allowed to party or celebrate and concentrate on their spiritual lives. So, naturally, Maslenitsa week is filled with celebrations that end on Sunday.

On the last day of Maslenitsa, people ask forgiveness for all grievances they've caused during the year and mark the end of celebrations by burning a Maslenitsa doll.

Did You Know?
Maslenitsa is one of the oldest surviving Slavic holidays. The authentic celebration combines pagan and Orthodox traditions.

We hope you felt inspired to experience the traditional Russian atmosphere during the most popular celebrations. Feel free to find the best tour to Russia for yourself.

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