5 Ingredients For A Russian New Year Card Posted by on Dec 31, 2015 in Traditions


New Year is approaching quickly, and, as you remember, this is arguably the most important celebration in Russia. Do you need to brush up your New Year vocabulary? Check out our previous posts on this subject.

A big part of the New Year tradition is wishing your loved ones a happy new year — in person, in a postcard, letter, or over email. You probably also know that an Anglo-American-style card where you only write their name, write one “canned” wish, and sign your name won’t earn you any points with Russians. They will expect a customized, personal message, so let’s stock up on some Russian holiday wishes.

1. Exclamations

First, do you know how to open a holiday card? The salutation is followed by an exclamation point. Using a comma, full stop, or semicolon makes the opening sound chilly and impersonal. Some examples are:

Ле́ночка! (pet name for Yelena)

Дороги́е ма́ма и па́па! (Dear mom and dad)

2. Genitive Nouns

A good way to start your card is to say “Поздравля́ю тебя́ (or Вас /formal/) с Но́вым го́дом” (“I wish you a happy New Year,” literally, “I congratulate you on the new year”). This is usually followed with “Жела́ю (optional: тебе́/вам)…” + noun. If you are writing your greetings from multiple people, you can say “жела́ем” (we wish you) instead.

The noun that follows is normally in the genitive form. Since most of the things we wish for are abstract, we use what’s called genitive partitive instead of the accusative case. Here is what you can say after жела́ю:

  • сча́стья — happiness
  • (кре́пкого) здоро́вья — health
  • ра́дости — joy
  • тво́рческих успе́хов — literally, creative successes
  • любви́ – love
  • всего́ са́мого наилу́чшего — all the best
  • исполне́ния жела́ний — for your dreams to come true
  • интере́сных знако́мств — to meet interesting people
  • ве́рных друзе́й — loyal friends
  • долголе́тия — longevity
  • бога́тства — wealth (this may come off as unsubtle)
  • благополу́чия — well-being

You could even omit the verb — the genitive form of the noun will indicate that it’s a wish.

3. Что́бы

Желаю can also be followed by a dependent clause introduced by чтобы (literally, “so that”). The verb will look like it is a past form. This is, in fact, the subjunctive voice — one of the few easy aspects of Russian grammar. Here are some examples to illustrate this construction:

Жела́ю, что́бы все твои́ мечты́ сбыли́сь! (I wish all your dreams to come true.)

Жела́ю, что́бы у тебя́ всё получа́лось! (I wish you success in everything.)

4. Infinitive

If the recipient of the card is the subject of the subordinate clause, we can do away with the clause altogether and replace it with an infinitive construction.

Жела́ю, чтобы ты успе́шно сдала́ экза́мены = Жела́ю тебе́ успе́шно сда́ть экза́мены (I hope you pass your exams).

5. Пусть

Пусть introduces a subjunctive sentence meaning “Let there be something,” “May something happen.” In this sense, пусть is followed by a verb in the future tense. Here are some expressive examples from the Russian National Corpus:

Пусть уда́ча всегда́ сопровожда́ет тебя́ по жи́зни, а улы́бка озаря́ет твое́ лицо́! (Let luck always accompany you in your life and a smile light up your face.) [Поздравление (2005)]

Пусть тебя́ окружа́ют то́лько ве́рные и пре́данные друзья́. (May you be surrounded only by the most faithful and loyal friends.) [Письмо девушки подруге (2003)]

Пусть э́тот год бу́дет таким же стра́нным и замеча́тельным, пусть случа́ется то́лько хоро́шее, а плохо́е забу́дется! (Let this year be as strange and wonderful; let only good things happen, and bad things, be forgotten.) [Письмо студентки подруге (1994)]

2015 has been a great year for this blog. Thank you all for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you in 2016! С наступающим!

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.