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«Что делать в честь дня России?» [What to do in honor of Russia’s (Independence?) Day?] Posted by on Jun 13, 2010 in Culture, Russian life, when in Russia

Yesterday – «12 июня» [June 12th] – was a very great and highly important day for citizens of Russia, Russians and, of course, our ordinary crowd of «сочувствующие» [pl. sympathizing] Russophiles worldwide. It was «день России» [‘Day of Russia’; or why not ‘Russia’s Day’], a public holiday formerly known as «день независимости России» [Russia’s Independence Day]. Like everyone else in this country, yesterday I was perplexed by the ancient Russian question of «что делать?» [what to do?] in honor of this great day. After carefully contemplating my options, I decided «праздновать» [to celebrate] by making «самый русский коктейль» [the most Russian cocktail]: «Северное сияние» [“Northern Light”]. That’s the name they called this drink by in Siberia back in my youngest youth when I first was treated to it. It is, however, so beloved and just as common (among the brave and/or insane) that it has plenty of other names also (what it is called differs between regions in Russia): «Огни Москвы» or «Московские огни» [“Moscow Lights”]. You might have been treated to it by your friend «Антон» [Anton] in a remote Russian village under the name of «Бешеный русский» [“The Mad (rabid; violent; tempestuous) Russian”]. But no matter what it’s called, it is always made up by only two ingredients: «водка» [vodka] and «шампанское» [champagne]. The braver (more insane) people use half vodka and half champagne, «трусы» [pl. cowards] and «умные люди» [pl. smart people] use one third vodka and two thirds champagne. But because I think you’d all agree that this a very complicated process, so that’s why I’ll spell out the making of this drink using photographs:

First you take one bottle of «водка» [vodka]. I used «Зелёная марка» [“The Green Mark”] because it was written on the bottle that it’s «№ 1 в России» [Number One in Russia] and if there’s anyone you should trust when it comes to vodka, then it’s the people of this country. Then take one bottle of «шампанское» [champagne]. Make sure it is «российское» [Russian] (it’s so cheap!) and «полусладкое» [half sweet].

Pour up «80 (восемьдесят) граммов водки» [80 grams of vodka] into a plastic cup. Yes, Russians use ‘grams’ when talking about quantities of alcohol – especially when it comes to talking of quantities of vodka!

Pour up «120 (сто двадцать) граммов шампанского» [120 grams of champagne] into a plastic cup.

Empty the liquids of both plastic cups into another – a third – cup. In honor of «день России» [Russia’s Day] you should make sure that your glass is in one of the colors to be found in the country’s flag: «белый» [white], «синий» [(dark) blue] or «красный» [red]. I chose the last color, because that’s the one most strongly connected to this land in my own very personal opinion…

My plan for yesterday’s celebration was very clear already early in the morning: I had invited some good (Russian of course!) friends over to drink «Северное сияние» [”Northern Light”] and sing along to the classic tune «Ленин такой молодой» [“Lenin is so young”]. All of the above we were going to do «умеренно» [moderately; in moderation]. Afterwards I was going to write a post about the whole thing for this blog and then go to bed content with myself, my friends, Russia and life in general. This was all planned before I had my first sip of “Northern Light”… As you might already have noticed, this post was not written «12 июня» [June 12th], but «13 июня» [June 13th]. That’s because “Northern Light” is a very «опасный напиток» [dangerous beverage] and after only half of it you’re already not in any state to be writing any posts whatsoever. And you’ll be belting out «И Ленин такой молодой, и юный Октябрь впереди [“And Lenin is so young, and the young October is ahead!”] from your third floor window sooner than you know it. If you’re intended on trying “Northern Light”, then here are two very Russian suggestions on how to make it hurt less the morning after:

1) «Одно слово: закуски!» [One word: snacks!]: a Russian never drinks without eating. “When in Rome….” – always take a bite of something or other after every sip. When drinking in Russia is not the time to be thinking about calories – actually, the more calories you eat while drinking, the better you’ll feel the morning after. Not to mention that you can drink more that way! «Русская мудрость!» [Russian wisdom!].

2) «И ещё одно слово: вода [And one more word: water!]: remember to drink plenty of water while drinking the beloved «яд» [poison], and to finish the evening with at least two or three glasses of water before tumbling into bed.

And always: drink responsibly and mind your liver. Drinking should be fun; but perhaps not «проснуться в канаве за городом в новой шляпе и без кошелька» [to wake up in the ditch outside of town with a new hat and without a wallet] fun. Like I told my friends before they went home last night: «Ещё раз напоминаю – это Россия!» [Once again I remind you – this is Russia!]. That’s why I’ll have to finish this post with «с днём России!» [happy Russia’s day!].

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  1. Minority:

    It’s not Russia’s Independence day.
    Since 1994 it was Днем принятия декларации государственном суверенитете Российской Федерации. And since 2002 it was renamed to День России [Day Of Russia, Russia’s Day]. That’s all, we hadn’t other names for this day, but a lot of people call it independence, though it’s something confusing and strange – independence from who? We were free.)

  2. josefina:

    Minority: and that’s why I wrote “Indepence” with a question mark 😉

  3. Minority:

    Josefina, yeah I understood, just answered for this question 🙂

  4. josefina:

    Спасибо, “Меньшенство”!

  5. Minority:

    Josefina, I’m sorry, but I prefer to use my nickname without translations 😉 It’s like other names: for example, we do not call girl Морская instead of Марина, Родная instead of Наталья and so on. =)
    If you wish to call my name, you can use Наташа 😉

    ps. “меньшИнство”.. i guess you wrote “Е” because of word “меньше”, but it’s juft different suffixes: “-e” and “-ин”.

  6. josefina:

    Minority, or better yet: Natasha: I’m the one who should be sorry. I thought I was being funny when I translated your nickname into Russian. I guess not so much 🙁 I shall not let it happen again! I hope you can forgive me.

  7. Colin:

    Once more, Josefina, you’ve given us an insight into the real Russia, which is so important for those of us сочувствующие who have never been there. I also like your responsible comments about alcohol consumption towards the end of the piece. Nevertheless, I’d love to be drinking a Северное сияние right now!

  8. Ри:

    Not «трусЫ» (pants), but «трУсы» (cowards)!

  9. Ри:

    Not «трусЫ» (pants), but «трУсы» (cowards)! Please change)

  10. Minority:

    Josefina, I’m not angry at all, don’t worry about it. 🙂

    > Nevertheless, I’d love to be drinking a Северное сияние right now!

    Funny.. I’m russian, and I don’t want to try this Северное сияние 😀

  11. Martti:

    Independence with celebration is, as if the citizens peacefully leaving old binding relation, in hope of a new more free relation. Like leaving the childhood home when getting married.

  12. Charly:

    Oh great, now I really long for such a drink!
    But all I have is warm Martini d’Oro…
    no Vodka, no Champagne, I’d really like to be in Russia right now. 🙂

  13. Homo Post-Sovieticus:

    I would use the word зелье instead of яд. Another name for booze is зелёный змей. Drinking culture has been widely explored in literature. Consider just this essay title – “Metaphysics of Hangover.” Stop reading right now if you are under 21.
    If you want to impress your guests with a Russian drink, keep your vodka in the freezer, not fridge, at all times. Russian Standard – “Русский стандарт” will work for vodka neat. Drop a fresh or frozen cranberry (клюква) or lingonberry (брусника) into a one-ounce shot glass with vodka for a colorful accent. Call it a night. Yes, you may want to call me a moralizing babushka, but you do not want to face what follows this drinking scene from Осенний марафон: