Russian Language Blog

Are You Ready For the New Year? Posted by on Dec 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


The Russian New Year season is well under way. Yes, that’s right, New Year is more than a day, it’s a season. «Приготовления» [preparations] start early. Not as early as the Christmas frenzy in the US, but definitely by early December.

There’s so much to figure out! «Где будем праздновать» [Where are (we) going to celebrate?] is probably one of the most frequently asked questions of the season.

–  «Вы где будете Новый Год встречать?» [Where are you spending the New Year’s?]

–  «Мы с мужем едем на Кипр, а вы как?» [My husband and I are travelling to Cyprus and what about you?]

–  «А мы – у Сидоровых, как обычно. Выпьем шампанского, потанцуем, послушаем обращение Президента» [As usual, we’re going to the Sidorovs’. We’ll drink some Champaign, dance a bit, will tune into the president’s address.]

Frankly, as someone who’s gets very nostalgic about this most nostalgic of the Russian holidays,  I’d rather go to the said Sidorovs’ to celebrate «по-домашнему» [home style]. There’s something «обнадёживающее» [heartening] and «воодушевляющее» [inspiring] in the unpretentious rituals of Soviet-Russian New Year celebration that not even Cyprus can compete with.

We already talked about many of these «новогодние традиции» [New Year traditions] on this blog over the years. So here’s a little checklist if you’d like to create «праздничное настроение по-русски» [Russian-style festive atmosphere]:

Watch «Ирония судьбы» [The Irony of Fate]. To paraphrase a famous saying, «какой русский не смотрит Иронию судьбы [What kind of a Russian doesn’t watch “The Irony of Fate!”]. «Если уже тошнит от этого фильма» [If you are sick to your stomach from watching this movie (too many times)], «если он надоел хуже горькой редьки» [if it bores you silly; lit. it bores you more than a bitter radish] then there’s «Ирония судьбы [Irony of Fate, Part 2] and a no-less wonderful and wintery «Чародеи» [The Magicians].

Stock up on «Советское Шампанское» [Soviet Champaign]. It’s extra sweet, even «полу-сладкое» [semi-sweet] and bubbly, just like happy memories. You’ll need lots of it for all the toasts, but the good news is it’s cheap with a capital «Д» (for «дешёвый» [cheap]).

Set up and decorate a real «новогодняя ёлка» [New Year Tree]. It’s not that much different from a traditional Christmas tree. If you can score some vintage Soviet tree ornaments, then more power to you. If not, the usual glass orbs will do, but nothing too fancy. Instead, rely extensively on «мишура» [tinsel], foil-wrapped «грецкие орехи» [walnuts], «бумажные хлопушки» [paper crackers], and whatever other home-made toys your kids make this year. Use red star for a topper.

Get «Дед Мороз» [Father Frost] and «Снегурочка» [Snow Maiden]. I’m not talking about playing dress up (although if you or your friends are up to that, you score major points). But at least put the pair of small dolls or figurines under your New Year Tree. Don’t worry about a tree skirt though. Just use a white bed sheet.

Put mandarin oranges or tangerines under the tree on top of the make-shift tree skirt. They used to be a special winter treat in Soviet Union and are still symbols of New Year and prosperity.

Get gifts for children, family and close friends who are going to be at your party, but don’t wrap gifts and instead hide them «под ёлкой» [under the tree, actually – under the tree skirt].

Set up a big table in the middle of the living room (most Russian apartments do not have a formal dining room and kitchens are far too small and too mundane for the occasion). Cover it completely with plates of «закуски» [appetizers]. «Обязательно приготовьте салат Оливье» [You must make Olivier salad] and «селёдка под шубой» [“herring under a fir coat” layered salad]

This one is mostly for women – make sure that your outfit is in line with the coming year’s Zodiac sign, element and color. «В чём встречать Новый Год – вопрос не менее актуальный, чем где и с кем встречать его.» [What to wear for the New Year celebration is a question no less important than where to celebrate or with whom to celebrate]. 2011 is the year of «Белый Металлический Кролик» [the White and Metal Rabbit] according to Russian interpretations of Chinese calendar, so:

«Наиболее благоприятные цвета – белый, золотой и жёлтый. А так как Кролик – металлический, то блеск украшений из металлов будет как нельзя кстати.»  [The most favorable colors are white, gold and yellow. And since the Rabbit is a metal one, “bling” of shiny metal accessories will fit right in.]

At about 10 minutes to midnight turn the TV on to watch the «новогоднее обращение президента» [President’s New Year’s Address]. Apparently, this short holiday address is one of the «самые рейтинговые программы на телевидении» [most popular TV programs]. Now is time to move very quickly – uncork and pour a fresh bottle of Sovetsky Champaign – you’re only seconds away from greeting the New Year. Listen to «бой кремлёвских курантов» [the Kremlin’s carillon], make a wish with each strike, then drink up and heartily wish everyone «С Новым Годом! С Новым счастьем!» [Happy New Year! Lots of Happiness to You!]

Watch New Year programming on TV which, although different every year, is some permutation of a concert by the country’s most popular pop stars. Stay up as late as you can manage for bragging rights the next day. Have fun and keep in mind that «как Новый Год встретишь, так его и проведёшь.» [The way you greet the New Year is the way you live through it.]

Now, that’s a lot of stuff for just one day! There is more to come – the New Year’s Day itself, the Old New Year, the Chinese New Year and, of course, Russian Orthodox Christmas. In Russia ‘tis truly the season!

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  1. Natalie:

    I, for one, will definitely be watching Ирония судьбы. 🙂

  2. David Roberts:

    We ((Берегмерсей Русский кружок) started watching Ирония судьбы last night. So far, excellent! We’ll watch the rest of it in the New Year.

  3. Maureen Riley:

    You have a wonderful typo that is also a pun:

    «селёдка под шубой» [“herring under a fir coat” layered salad]

    Of course, you should have written “fur” coat. But “fir” is so appropriate to the season!

    We Russian instructors love these kinds of mistakes!

    С Новым годом!

    • yelena:

      @Maureen Riley Lol, Maureen! You know, I never even thought of it ’til you mentioned it, but now I understand why some of my American friends found the name of the salad so disturbing 🙂 All I had in mind was New Year’s imagery with brightly lit fir trees and they had something more akin to anchovies in mind, I s’pose 🙂 И Вас с Новым годом!