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New Year's Day in Russia

Late family dinners, sparkling wine and fireworks at midnight are some of the traditional ways of celebrating New Year’s Day in Russia. Children’s festivities may include a decorated fir tree and a visit by the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus.

Is New Year's Day a Public Holiday?

New Year's Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

New Year firework in the center of Moscow.

New Year's Day is celebrated in Moscow and other parts of Russia each year.

©iStockphoto.com/Evgeny Dontsov

What Do People Do?

New Year’s Day is a family holiday for many Russians. Dinner usually starts late on December 31. Traditional meals include Russian salad, herring and sparkling wine. A pre-recorded address by the country’s president appears on TV, listing the achievements of the past year, at 11.55pm (23:55) local time in each of Russia’s time zones. Many people watch his address and raise a toast to the chiming of the Kremlin clock. The Russian national anthem begins at midnight and people congratulate each other and exchange presents. Some people go out to make a snowman or light fire crackers in their backyards.

People may celebrate the day at a friend’s house or attend the fireworks in their city. Celebrations for children include a decorated fir tree and Grandfather Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, who gives presents. Grandfather Frost often comes with his granddaughter, Snegurochka (“The Snow Girl”). As things quieten down later in the day, many people visit their friends or relatives. Another tradition is to wish a “Happy New Year” to passers-by throughout January 1.

Public Life

New Year’s Day is a national holiday in Russia, in which most businesses and public offices are closed. The Russian Labor Code declares January 1-5 as a non-labor period. If any of these days fall on a weekend, they move to January 6 or January 8 (January 7 is Christmas Day). Schools and universities are usually closed as part of their winter vacation at this time of the year. There may be limited public transport on January 1.

Update: In October 2012, a decree signed by Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev changed the dates for the New Year break. Russians will have a 10 day break for New Year, starting Sunday, December 30, 2012 and ending Tuesday, January 8, 2013.

Background

Traditionally, New Year’s Day in Russia fell on September 1, which ended Russia’s tax year. In 1700, in an attempt to westernize the country, Russian ruler Peter I moved the holiday to January 1 according to the Julian calendar. Russia started using the Gregorian calendar in 1918.

Between 1919 and 1937, the Bolsheviks banned public celebrations of New Year’s Day, calling it a bourgeois holiday. It became a non-labor day again in 1947. The tradition of having Russia’s leader give a televised address became a New Year’s tradition in 1976.

Symbols

A decorated fir tree, Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka are the common symbols of New Year’s Day in Russia.

About New Year's Day in other countries

Read more about New Year's Day.

New Year's Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2010FriJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2011SatJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2012SunJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2013TueJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2014WedJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2015ThuJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2016FriJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2017SunJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2018MonJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2019TueJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday
2020WedJan 1New Year's DayNational holiday

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