Russian Language Blog

Christmas is not Russia’s Main Winter Holiday Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Culture, language, Russian life

Since the beginning of December every minute of every hour brings us closer to the crazy, stressful, yet long anticipated, and magical winter holidays. Some of you may think I am being politically correct by not saying “Christmas” and using “winter holidays” instead. Let me assure you this is not the case. A lot of my warm childhood memories will forever be associated with celebrating New Year, not Christmas, because that is the main winter holiday in Russia. However, Christmas certainly has its place. Just like United States, Russia has certain movies, shows, dishes, and customs that are associated with this time of year. If you wonder what winter holiday season is like in that part of the world, read on!

Дед Мороз и Снегурочка (Russian version of Santa Claus who happens to have a granddaughter). He does not come down the chimney for milk and cookies, instead he and his granddaughter prefer to put on a show every now and then :-).

Ёлка – a decorated pine tree (real or fake) is usually present at every house; presents are placed under it. It is worth mentioning that Russian people usually put a lot of thought into their presents, however, I tend to think they do not spend nearly as much money on New Year’s gifts as Americans do on their Christmas gifts (in proportion to their income). Gifts usually include things people need, not necessarily want. However, I do not try to speak for everyone :-).

«Ирония судьбы, или с легким паром!»the most popular New Year’s movie of all time. The movie, along with all its songs, is still very well known even though it was filmed in 1976. Read more on wikipedia.

Салат «Оливье»“Olivie” salad, or Russian potato salad is pretty much a staple of any Russian holiday, particularly New Year.

Бой курантов и обращение президента the final strikes of the Kremlin clock and the President’s speech is something that everyone tunes into right before midnight.

New Year music shows – every year major Russian TV stations film holiday specials that are typically musical in nature. These shows usually focus on remaking of old Russian songs, sometimes even popular American songs, or consist of songs popular at the time.

New Year is celebrated in Russia 9 times due to 9 different time zones.

Russians also have what is called Old New Year – a holiday celebrated on January 13, in honor of the old tradition when New Year was in fact celebrated on that day (due to a different, Julian, calendar).

Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th and Catholic Christmas is celebrated on December 25th .

December 25th is not a federal holiday; most people are off work between December 31st and January 8th .

There, I feel like I gave you an overview of what it is like to be in Russia in the month of December.

Feel free to share your stories and ask questions!

Всего хорошего!

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Magda:

    I’m sure you meant December 25th for Catholic Christmas…

    • Jenya:

      @Magda Magda, thanks a lot. I fixed it :-), I suppose I was more tired than I thought last night.

  2. samonen:

    Оливье should probably be in the French form Olivier, because according to Vladimir Gilyarovsky’s Moscow and Muscovites, this Russian potato salad is actually haughty French culinary irony. It was “created” by upstart Russian customers of the 19th century Moscow restaurant Эрмитаж by ruining a dish made by the French chef Lucien Olivier. They just mixed everything on their plates together, creating a “salad”. Having seen his chef d’oeuvre mistreated in such horrendous manner, Olivier started serving it as the Russians seemed to prefer it. The meat was рябчик (grouse?), a far cry from Soviet bologna.

    Merry Chrismas! Season’s greetings! С Новым Годом!

  3. Jenya:

    Samonen, thank you very much for your input. I never looked into the origin of this salad and simply go by the memories of my childhood and youth. By the way, my mom is fond of making it with chicken instead of bologna 🙂 .

  4. Christian:

    Hello Jenya

    excuse me for beeing late in this topic.
    You may write also,that for tho Orthodox christians easter is more important than christmas.Actually it is so for all christians,but in USA this has changed.