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Winter holidays in Russia

a group of people in front of a tall building

In Russia, The New Year and Christmas mood usually start at the beginning of December. But since the New Year is the main holiday in Russia, some of us can start waiting for the New Year’s holidays as early as in September-October. Slowly everything around will send a message that ‘New Year is coming’ – commercials while you’re watching the news or your favorite tv show, a special magazine edition, decoration in your favorite shop and special offers for New Year’s gifts. Russia is absolutely a perfect destination to feel the festive atmosphere thanks to the winter snowy weather all around. Moscow is a city that never misses celebrations and decorations. It is the best place to celebrate winter holidays in Russia. It is part of our culture to make everything big and stunning, like a good show.


Russian Santa Claus

In December winter holidays in Russia and the festivities are already in every kindergarten, every school and every office. If you manage to have several jobs, then you might have 3-4 New Year parties! Or you can celebrate New Year more than once thanks to nine time zones that we have. One of the celebrations can be at the Red Square. Can you imagine yourself on the New Year’s Eve at the heart of Moscow?

winter holidays party in kindergarten

On a kid’s party, you can meet a Russian version of Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost (‘Ded Moroz’ in Russian) and his granddaughter Snow Maiden (‘Snegurochka’ in Russian). Please don’t ask what happened to the rest of the family, it stays unknown even for us. They will play various games with children and will do a Russian circle dance called ‘horovod’. As there are no alcoholic drinks at this party, we have a special children’s champagne. If a kid wants to get a present from Grandfather Frost, he or she usually has to sing a song or recite a poem.


Russian traditions for the New Year

Traditional New Year food

Every adult party is different. The essentials are the “so-called” Soviet champagne, mandarins, salad Olivier, or Russian salad as it’s usually called abroad. It is a kind of tradition that food must be prepared for the next 2 weeks. Thus, you will have something to eat during the long New Year holidays. It’s also hard to imagine our New Year without the president’s speech about the achievements we made, fireworks, strikes on the Kremlin clock, and musical concerts on TV. Young people always ask who would watch these TV shows, but apparently, there is an audience.


New Year gifts

winter holidays in Russia preparations

Winter holidays in Russia and New Year is a great time for giving and receiving gifts. A bottle of sparkling wine and a box of chocolates would be always a safe choice. But if you want to be creative, you can visit one of the New Year markets for interesting New Year/Christmas handmade toys. It’s also a good way to spend your time in Moscow. The decorations can blow your mind. The entire space literally shines from garlands and balloons. Get one of the special Russian beverages, like sbiten’ (a traditional honey drink made with natural herbs and spices), buckthorn tea or medovukha (an alcoholic drink brewed from water, honey and yeast) and enjoy a beautiful concert. Markets will be a space where various artists, musicians and even magicians will perform for you. One of the best is at the Red Square.


Skating Rinks

Skating rink in Moscow

Before or after the market explore one of Moscow’s ice rinks. We have so many of them – in front of GUM at the Red Square, Gorky Park, Chistye Ponds, VDNKh to name a few. Russia is traditionally famous for the best figure skaters. So even if you’ve never tried, that would be the right place to start. For inspiration, you can visit one of our ice shows. For instance, Evgeni Plushenko, four-time Olympic medalist and a three-time World champion, launches a show ‘Swan Lake.’



GULAG museum Moscow

If the weather is really cold, you can always visit museums. The good thing is that during the New Year holidays around 80 museums will have free admission. Among them, Memorial Museum of Cosmonautic, GULAG Museum, various house-museums of the greatest Russian writers.



bane during winter holidays in Russia

Absolutely, the best place to warm up your body and soul during winter holidays in Russia is definitely banya, which is the Russian sauna. This old tradition will certainly appeal to everyone. There are Public Banyas such as famous Sanduny. You can get not only physical but also aesthetic pleasure here: in the highest category room for male there is an empire style fireplace, a Gothic hall, a Turkish hall and an antique swimming pool.


Golden Ring in winter

Dog in Vladimir

Once you feel that you would like to see something outside of the capital, we recommend taking a trip to the Golden Ring Russia. It’s a ring of ancient towns located a few hours drive from Moscow the capital of Russia. On our two-day tour, you can visit beautiful cities such as Vladimir and Suzdal where the White Monuments are listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Russian Christmas

golden ring winter holidays in Russia

New Year is all around in Moscow, but what about Christmas? We do not want to disappoint you, but to most of the Russians, December 25th means absolutely nothing, unless they have a birthday. Why is that? First, as it was said before, the main holiday for us is the New Year and it was during the Soviet era. Second, unlike Catholic countries, we celebrate Christmas on January 7th. The reason is that the Orthodox Church in Russia still recognises the Julian calendar, while the country switched to the Gregorian calendar. Remembering the previous calendar, we even celebrate Old New Year on January 13th, which is more like a family holiday, compared to big parties on December 31.. Still after the collapse of the Soviet Union Christmas is getting more and more popular. These days many people go to church to celebrate Christmas.

In order to feel this special holiday through the eyes of a local person and see the importance of old traditions, you can join our Christmas tour. The good thing is that you can do it on any winter day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’!

S Novym Godom i schastlivogo Rozhdestva!

This text was written by our local guide Tanya Neyman. Tanya is passionate about Moscow! Tour the city with her during your travel to Moscow.