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Russian Holidays

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Russian holidays


Russian people really like to celebrate! They adopted the western holidays such as St. Valentine, Catholic Christmas, Halloween as well as they also celebrate traditional Russian holidays and holidays of Soviet period. Here are described only the main Russian holidays.


January 1-2, New Year

 The New Year is the greatest holiday of the year in Russia. It is celebrated on the night from December 31 to January 1. Russians usually celebrate New Year together with their families and friends. They cook big dinner, invite relatives, present gifts to each other, sing songs and dance. They usually have decorated trees at their homes and in the centers of the major cities. At 12 o'clock people drink champagne and make wishes for the coming year. New Year's is celebrated in family apartments, but after midnight people usually go out for walks late in the night. Also New Year is a special time for kids. They are waiting for Father Frost ("Ded Moroz", closely related to Santa Claus) and Snow Maiden ("Snegurochka", his granddaughter) to bring them presents. Often kids dance around the tree, tell rhymes to Father Frost then receive their presents.
NB Flowers and presents are deeply associated this holiday.



January 7, Orthodox Christmas

 Most Christian Russians belong to the Orthodox Church, and it is traditionally to fast until the first church service on January 6, Christmas Eve. The church in Russia still uses the old Julian calendar; therefore their Christmas celebration is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar that we use. The period from 7 till 19th January is called "Sviatki" (Saint Days). It is a holy week leading up to the celebration of Christ's christening. During these days girls and young women in Russia tell fortunes every day in a whole variety of ways.


January 25, Tatiana's Day.

On the 25th of January students and women named Tatiana celebrate one of the most favorite holidays - St. Tatiana's Day. This holiday was first celebrated in the middle of the 18th century, when in 1755 the Moscow University was founded. Students chose this day to glorify students' life.


February 14, St. Valentine's Day

This holiday is quite new to Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. But it is becoming more and more popular in Russia. St.Valentine's Day is now celebrated in Russia like everywhere in the world with giving flowers, Valentine cards and other gifts between couples in love. All the traditions as well as the very idea of the holiday were brought from the West.



February 23, Defenders' Day

Next is February 23, Defenders' Day, known until recently as Soviet Army Day, popularly viewed as holiday for all men and closely followed by its female counter-part, Women's Day, March 8, when women receive flowers, presents and are toasted by men.



1st week of March - Maslenitsa (Pancake week)

By the end of winter comes Maslenitsa (Pancake week). Traditionally, it's farewell to the winter and welcome to the spring.
The Orthodox Church considers Maslenitsa to be a Christian holiday "Cheese week" 7 weeks before Easter. Maslenitsa is a merry and wide celebrated holiday similar to the carnival in Western countries. It is a time of games and contests especially horse racing and fistfights. A big doll of straw is burned as the final act of saying goodbye to the already passed winter. Through the whole week people cook pancakes (bliny) and serve them with honey, caviar, sour cream and butter.



March 8, International Women's Day

 International Women's Day is one of Russia's most important holidays. It's celebration is a combination between Valentine's Day and Mother's Day in the West. All men try to do something pleasant for their daughters, wives, mothers and beloved ones on this day. They present them flowers (usually mimosas, tulips and roses), candy and shower with compliments. They are also supposed to do all the housework.
NB All women receive flowers on this day. Forgetting to send a lady a card, or a gift on this day would be equal to forgetting her birthday.



March / April, Easter (Paskha)


Orthodox Easter is usually celebrated in about two weeks after Catholic Easter (this year - March 29). The Easter time celebration is by far the most important in the Russian Orthodox Church. The traditional Easter dishes in Russia are a nut and fruit filled yeast cake called "kulich" and a sweet cheese spread called "paskha". Also it's very popular to paint eggs in different colours. There are two types of Easter eggs mostly used in Russia: "pysanky" - richly ornamented eggs of two, three or four colors, and "krashenki" - Easter eggs of one color, without any ornament. The painted egg is a traditional Easter present given to friends and relative.



April 1, April Fool's Day

The day of laughter. Everyone may try to play a trick on others. It is a merry day, playing tricks and jests are in the order of things. All information coming from TV screens and newspapers cause distrust and smiles because it is a day of fun.



May 1-2, International Labor Day

During Soviet time there were huge demonstrations on this day. But nowadays it's just a traditional holiday of spring. Even though no longer celebrated on a same grand scale as it was during Soviet times, this event retains the festive nature, with colorful parade through Moscow's Red Square and St.Petersburg's Palace Square. Most of the people prefer to spend these days just relaxing, going for picnics, meeting with friends and visiting their summerhouses ("dacha") in countryside.



May 9, Victory Day

In Russia almost all the families have at least one person who took part in the war. The number of survivors is getting less every year. Victory Day honors the people who took part in World War II. On this day, flowers and are laid on wartime graves, and veterans come out into the streets wearing their military orders.



June 12, Russian Independence Day

Russian Independence Day is celebrated on June 12. On this day, in 1990, Russian parliament formally declared its sovereignty. While the holiday has been officially on the books since 1991, 2003 was the first year that it was celebrated in a major way. There was a big parade in Moscow, and President Vladimir Putin gave a speech.



24 June, Ivan Kupala's Day.

(European analogue - Holiday of St. John the Baptist)

 It is an old Eastern Slav holiday of the summer solstice. This holiday is connected with the mass bathing and all that related to water. According to the popular belief one must not sleep as evil spirits play tricks at this night. Witches, wizards, mermaids injure with all their power. Formerly young people swam in rivers till late at night, danced, sank flower wreathes with lighted candles to river. Those who were going to marry jumped over the fire together and if their hands don't unclasp, it considered that they would be together. Some of these traditions are still preserved so don't be surprised if you get wet on this day.



October 31, Halloween

It's a new holiday in Russia. It's becoming popular especially in big cities. Like in many other countries in Russia it's time of ghosts, spooks, spirits, pumpkins and silly-fun tricks.



November 7, National Reconciliation Day

Formerly Revolution Day - November 7 is the anniversary of the socialist revolution of October 1917 (on the old calendar, the revolution took place on October 25) which established communist power. Nowadays it is "National Reconciliation Day" and many Russians continue to celebrate it.



December 12, Constitution Day

On this date in 1993 the new Constitution of the Russian Federation was approved. The holiday is not considered a popular one in Russia and for most people Constitution Day is simply an additional day off.


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