How to celebrate the New Year, Russian-style

Since Soviet Russia wasn’t allowed to officially celebrate Christmas, we had to have some other major holiday. And it had to be big. Huge. BETTER than Christmas. Thus was born the Soviet New Year, honestly THE BEST holiday EVER.

Think Halloween with its costumes and candy. Add to it Christmas with its dressed-up evergreens and loads of presents. Then sprinkle freely with the regular New Year traditions as you know it — the festive partying all night long, the  champagne, the countdown, the fireworks. And most importantly, don’t forget the Chinese New Year — a new animal patron watching over every successive year, determining your luck. Finally, toss in Russia’s own deep superstitions.     

And you get a holidaygreat for everyone — from families with young kids, to love-stuck teens, to 20-something singles. You get a holiday that outlasted the Soviet empire itself!   

You get the holiday of my childhood — one that I too have trouble growing out of. 🙂                     


I think the most addictive part of it isn’t even all the fun — it’s the superstition. The kind Russians have always been famous for — and which only intensified in the Soviet period when religion wasn’t sanctioned.

According to the New Year tradition which had taken such firm hold on me, what you do on New Year’s eve and on the first morning of the new year will determine how you spend the entire year. What you wear and eat, who you spend your time with, it all matters too. While American Christians are shopping around for better outdoor lights, and the Jews hunt for fancier electric Hanukkah menorahs to display in their windows, Russians buy up little animal figures at the stores, to surround themselves with the image of the lucky animal, and check the major newspapers for horoscopes and instructions on how to best celebrate on the New Year’s eve.

What are you doing this New Year’s?

And what are you hoping for?


The rabbit will supposedly (and HOPEFULLY) bring us all a peaceful year and generally a much happier year for the entire world, after the combative exhaustive Tiger of 2010. (Not that it was bad or anything. To me, at least, this passing year had been filled with great highlights. it’s just been a bit DIFFICULT. Which may have been a good thing, for it toughened me up EVEN MORE, and made me work harder than ever.)

According to the Chinese and Russian horoscopes, 2011 just might be the year when patience, hard work and good deeds pay off (but bragging, showing off, intolerance and aggression generally do not). It is best to greet this year in the colors of the rabbit — white, gray or light brown. God save you if you decide to have rabbit for dinner though, or wear a rabbit fur hat. (Rabbit won’t like it!)

Whatever you do this New Year’s eve then — make sure you don’t fight — or, I don’t know, do something lame like watch soap operas! Make sure you hug your loved ones when the clock strikes twelve, and if you must be separated from someone you love, at least think of them, or call them.

 Stay happy, and meet this year with joy! Then, at the end, let me know what great fortunes the Rabbit brought you!


9 thoughts on “How to celebrate the New Year, Russian-style

  1. I will be hanging out at a retreat center with 40 – 60 extended family members – an after tradition that is more than 30 years old. (not always at New Year’s though)

    We’ll have a variety show in our pjs and then have a Quaker style time of reflection and sharing.

    And lots of snacks!

  2. Wow — sounds cool, esp. the “Quaker style reflection and sharing.” Hey, if you blog about what that’s like — I bet that would make one cool informative post! Just an idea!! 🙂
    As for me, I’ll actually be spending a very American New Year’s eve with hubby, kids and best friend, and her family.

    • Thanks — when I packed them to take to America, I had no idea how precious they would be one day. I am not that old :)and yet these kid pictures feel like history — artifacts of an era gone. Crazy.

    • Thanks Medeia! Hope you ended up having a great time last night. My resolutions I take very seriously. At least in the beginning. Let’s see how I do in 2011 🙂
      Happy New Year!

  3. you’re so right. Russian New Years is the best… definitely something worth treasuring (besides, life is more fun this way). Though my family is Jewish, we never did the Hannukah thing. (side comment: IMO Hannukah is just a hyped up holiday not equivalent to christmas or new years; Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Years). I came to America at age 6, and though pretty assimilated, two things I refuse to let go of: Russian traditions (ie holidays, food, european style, etc) and language (it’s great to be bilingual). I’m 26 now and still haven’t broken the promise to myself. 🙂

    • Twenty years here — wow, that’s two years longer than me! And I am Jewish too. There will always be some “Rusian-ness” in me, I guess…but most of it is going fast. I think one of the fun things I will always keep are fun little expressions and proverbs. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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