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New Year in Siberia

Everybody all over the world is looking forward to the most wonderful days of the year – Christmas and New Year holidays.

a group of people that are standing in the snow

These days make you feel happy because you believe all your dreams are about to come true, and some changes to the better are about to enter your life.

What pops in your mind when you think of Christmas and New Year?

For many people Christmas comes on December 25, but some churches (mainly Orthodox ones) use a different calendar for their religious celebrations. In Russia, the old Julian calendar is used, so we celebrate Christmas on January 7.

For most people in Russia New Year plays more important role than Christmas as it comes first.

There is a lot of hustle and bustle in Irkutsk a week before New Year.

The citizens are looking for something special to buy for their beloved.

While we are busy running around Christmas markets, we are trying to answer not least important question How to celebrate New Year?

Some prefer following family New Year traditions.


Old school New Year

a bowl of food and glasses of wine on a table

Firstly, you need to make New Year dinner, which must contain following items unless you want it to be fake.

  • Olivier salad, also known as Russian Salad. Lucien Olivier, who was a Russian chef of Belgian and French descent, invented it for the Hermitage restaurant in Moscow in the 1860’s. It is gaining in popularity not only in Russia, but also over the rest of the Soviet Union and Europe. Have you ever tried it?
  • Champaign to pop the bottle right before midnight.
  • Symbol of the year in the Chinese astrology for good luck.
  • Speech of our president.
  • New Year movie – The Irony of fate, or Enjoy your bath.

Secondly, you need to make your wish while the clock striking midnight, clink glasses shouting out “Happy New Year” and then enjoy the dinner among your relatives.

You will live through the New Year the same way you see it in

a purple light in front of a crowd

Many Russian people believe in this saying, and they want to spend New Year’s Eve in an unusual way:

  • going down the slide in the city center where every year a huge Christmas tree is set up and amazing ice sculptures are made
  • going to a dance club to party hard with your friends
  • attending a formal event. Many upscale hotels and restaurants in Irkutsk host catered New Year’s Eve galas. They have professional singers, musicians and entertainment program. You have to book a table ahead of time
  • going to a house party. Such parties are usually a potluck. One of the greatest entertainment is making mulled wine, playing games and telling stories of the expiring year
  • sharing New Year with your only one over a nice meal and a midnight kiss
  • leaving for the winter holidays to Thailand. Thailand is a very popular destination among Irkutsk citizens to celebrate New Year, because it’s rather cheap, just 8 hours away by plane, and hot
  • going wild. All you need is some friends, tents and a proper equipment to make a fire and survive celebrating New Year on the shore of Baikal under the starry sky
  • celebrating New Year in a hotel in Listvyanka on the shore of Lake Baikal

a very dark water

Important note! Baikal starts covering with ice from the North to the South. Small bays get frozen in December. The ice is thick enough to bear your weight. So you can  go ice-skating near Olkhon island (300 km away from Irkutsk). The ice could be so clean and smooth that it’s rather difficult to realize if you are skating over the ice or walking right on the water. It also could be possible to watch fish swimming beneath the ice.

In Listvyanka Baikal gets frozen just in the middle or at the end of January. So you will fail to find thick, transparent ice with beautiful cracks in New Year’s Eve there.

As you can see, we celebrate New Year in Irkutsk as many people do all over the globe. The way of celebration depends on a person’s preferences. The only thing that makes difference is Lake Baikal. We are so lucky to have such a huge source of energy, which helps us to make our dreams real.

Our Irkutsk Team guides are happy to take you around Irkutsk and keep you company to Lake Baikal any time.

a couple of people that are sitting in the snow

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

May all your wishes come true.

Written by Marina, local guide