Holidays and their real, deeper meaning help in understanding Russian culture, Russian character and Russian mindset. It also reveals how ordinary Russian people live their daily lives.
Some foreigners residing in Russia have no idea of how ordinary Russians live. Not everyone, but many expats spend their time (contract, business assignment, whatever brought them here) in Russia between corporate office in one of those high rise buildings in “Delovoi Centr” area and their expensive apartment on Patriarshie Prudy. Inside Sadovoe Kolzo, is all they know and believe this is how all Russians live.
May 1st in soviet times was propaganda holiday as communist doctrine proclaimed labor as one of its cornerstones. Each year there was big parade on May 1st, with a must attendance. There were lots of street decorations, large billboards with communist mottos, typed in bold white letters on solid red background, organized crowds of people dressed up, holding flowers.
After ussr collapse, Russian government decided to keep May 1st a public holiday. Now it is two days of the holiday observation, May 1st and May 2nd.
Now, many years away from all that ussr nonsense, there still will be meetings and parades on streets, here and there, very local and not as massive as it used to be in CCCP. Very few politically engaged people would join those events. Some people will come because they truly believe in whatever political idea that makes them join those events. Some will come because they are stuck in the past and firmly believe in celebrating May 1st the soviet way. Some will come because their boss tells them to attend those events, or he will not pay their bonus. Political regimes come and go, bot some things just never change here.
Nowadays many people will take those few working days between May 1st and May 9th as vacation and fly far away. Majority of Russians however, will go to their dachas. May 1st is a massive exodus from Moscow and larger cities. Here comes the true meaning of May 1st holiday.
Contrary to what most expats know, dacha is not a summerhouse for fun and leisure, at least not for majority of dacha owners. Dacha is a source of basic food for people, who cannot afford buying it on those expensive pseudo “farmers markets” or grocery stores. Dacha also is a source of produce for those who can’t afford paying with their health for that crappy food that many retailers sell. Many consumers simply don’t know any better; for them what “azbuka” stocks is a standard of quality.
When you walk on Moscow streets in spring, raise you head and look at apartment windows. In some windows you will see arrays of powerful lamps stationed on windowsills, always on. Those lamps produce white, sometimes purplish light. This is a setup for growing sprouts. Later, in the beginning of May, those sprouts will be transferred to open soil on dachas. Tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, other vegetables will grow faster in an open soil from sprouts, opposed to growing from seeds.
On May 1st holidays Russians will go to their dachas to do spring cleaning, prepare patches for planting. They will plant potatoes, variety of vegetables, flowers. This all — planting, doing patches is a very hard work and this is what Labor Day is all about.
Unlike other holidays that have rather historical or symbolic meaning, May 1st dacha activities manifest hard labour in its most simple and primitive form that’s been around as long as human kind exists — cultivating soil to grow food.
Communist revolution of 1917 brought people from suburbs and villages to cities, mixing and replacing its original habitats. Russia has always been an agrarian country throughout most of its pre-revolution history. Ancestors of many, if not most Russians cultivated soil in the past and this is how they fed their families and made their living. Working on the soil is in Russian DNA. It is also in Russian DNA living in a hostile environment, feeding and supporting themselves and not relying on anything else. Even soviet propaganda and oppression machine could not reverse this part of Russian DNA.
Cultivating soil, a piece of land that will grow produce and supply food for the entire year is a very Russian thing. This is how people survived before communist revolution. Growing own food is how Russians went through decades of slowly degrading soviet union and disastrous nineties. Growing own food is how many people continue surviving now.
It is interesting, when Russians move to other countries for permanent residence, many want to have their own patches on the backyard to grow berries, fruits and vegetables.
May 1st being a Labour Day is a reminder, that Russians will sustain, no matter the circumstances. If tomorrow the whole world turns against Russia and the iron curtain sets in again, there will be dachas with simple, but quality food. It will be weekend trips to dacha, spring through the summer, canning and making pickles in the fall.
Self-reliance is one of things, foreigners don’t really get about Russia. It is deeply rooted in Russian culture and manifests in many different ways, be it response to external challenges or just supporting own family in tough times. This is what dacha primarily is all about, leisure, shashlik and banya come second.
Practicalities of May 1st holidays. Moscow and most larger cities get spring cleaning in April. For May 1st Moscow and most large cities will be polished and decorated to the upcoming holidays. Normally, beginning of May is when warm weather sets in. All gardens and parks will be in bloom. There will be less people on streets and in public transportation. Moscow will have events on streets, squares and other public places. Business will be slower, because many decision makers will leave country. This is probably one the best period season for a short visit to Moscow.
Red caviar is one of Russian staple foods. Red caviar in Russia is relatively inexpensive, easy to buy, popular among locals. Red caviar has been an export product throughout most of Russian history.
As you may know, red caviar comes from salmon. Not many people realize “salmon” is a collective name for many different species of fish. Salmon in Russian is ЛОСОСЬ (LOSOS’) also known as “red fish” or КРАСНАЯ РЫБА (KRASNAYA RIBA) because of its distinctive pink to red color of meat.
All species of salmon produce different red caviar. This means size, color, texture and ultimately TASTE of red caviar varies depending on a salmon specie the caviar comes from.
Beware, nowadays many shops (especially large retailers) sell red caviar from farmed lake trout. If the packaging says РАДУЖНАЯ ФОРЕЛЬ this is lake trout caviar and this is a FAKE red caviar. Real, natural red caviar must come from wild sea salmon.
When you are buying red caviar, there must be a clear indication on the packaging of what kind of salmon the caviar comes from. If it just says ЛОСОСЕВАЯ (salmon), you will be buying the cheapest kind of caviar or a fake. This means you need to read what is written on a packaging of caviar before you buy it. I suggest not to buy unpackaged caviar sold by weight. Primarily because you never know what you are buying, but also the quality of such caviar not worth money paid.
Good manufacturers directly indicate salmon specie the caviar comes from.
Before buying any caviar, look at its packaging contents (as usual, written in a small font). Aside from caviar, salt and 1-2 preservatives there must be no other ingredients. Preservatives are required to keep caviar from spoiling quick. Other than salt and preservatives, there must be nothing in the caviar you are about to buy. The caviar must have no sugar, no any other ingredient that would clearly indicate a FAKE or low quality product.
Very rarely you can find red caviar not containing any preservatives, just salt. It’s a very fresh and very natural product, this type of caviar must be consumed within 1-2 days after purchase. This type of caviar is never sold in grocery stores, only in specialty caviar shops. Specialty caviar shops are found around Moscow. Those are not caviar shops in airports (who knows what they sell?).
Examine the caviar packaging sticker further. It is good to know where manufacturer of the caviar is located. If it’s Far East of Russia, specifically Sakhalin and Kamchatka, most likely the caviar you are buying was made from fresh raw caviar. If caviar manufacturer is located somewhere else (especially central Russia), it most likely is made from frozen caviar (or it’s a fake).
There are specialty shops in Moscow that sell only red caviar from Sakhalin. Their caviar is made from freshly caught wild fish.
Ideal packaging for red caviar is a glass or plastic jar. Small metal cans so popular and still produced since soviet times is not a good option, primarily because you can’t see what is inside.
When you buy caviar, examine contents of packaging. Caviar grains must be whole, have even color, same size. Caviar grains must not be broken. When the caviar is of a lower quality, caviar grains are broken and what you buy is mostly caviar liquid. This is the type of not canned caviar most grocery stores in Moscow sell by weight. (Hint — don’t buy it, as it’s low quality product or a fake)
As mentioned, there are different types of caviar depending on a salmon specie it comes from. Below list has description of caviar from the most popular species of salmon (names of salmon are in Russian as it would be indicated on a can with caviar).
КЕТА (KETA) — has one of largest caviar grains, 5-7 millimeters in diameter, red-orange colored, the grain’s shell is more stiff. Has very gentle buttery taste. Keta is the most pricey kind of red caviar.
ГОРБУША (GORBUSHA) — caviar grains have size of 3-5 millimeters, light-orange colored, the taste is universal. The most inexpensive and popular type of red caviar.
КИЖУЧ (KIZHUCH)— caviar grains are 3-4 millimeters, have dark red color and a slightly bitter taste.
НЕРКА (NERKA) — caviar grains are about 3 millimeters in diameter, bright red color, taste is a bit bitter.
ЧАВЫЧА (CHAVYCHA) — one of largest caviar grains, 6-7 millimeters in diameter, rich red color, slightly “spicy” taste.
Above taste descriptions are all subjective. Each caviar has its own distinctive taste and only you can say how each caviar really tastes to you. If you are in Russia for a long time, try each kind and decide what you like the best. If you are on a short visit, try whatever picks your attention, you will not be disappointed. Real red caviar from wild salmon, properly made is a high quality product, tasty and full of good nutrients.
There are many ways to serve and eat red caviar. In soviet tradition red caviar is served in halves of hard boiled egg whites. Red caviar goes well on a slice of white or black bread. Having caviar with Russian pancakes is also a good way of eating it.
My personal choice is a thin slice of black bread with some butter on top of it and red caviar on top of the butter. Cold vodka shot makes an excellent compliment to red caviar served this way.
Information in this article applies to renting apartments in Moscow and any large city in Russia.
Advice number one for those who decide renting apartment in Moscow or anywhere else in Russia — hire a good real estate agent. Good real estate agent will save you from many hassles and will save your money. Renting apartment in Russia in general and in Moscow specifically is not very straightforward process. There is a lot of fraud, hidden catches, specifics to consider. To avoid losing money and nerves, hire a professional who knows all peculiarities of the market to manage the whole process for you.
Not everyone calling themselves a real estate agent is a real professional. You wanna hire a real estate agent by recommendation from other people to ensure they are able to do the job well. Ask other expats, Russians who can recommend a specific person they have dealt with in the past.
You must sign a contract with real estate agent before you start working with them. Their fee will be somewhere between 50% and 100% of a monthly rental cost. For really expensive apartments the fee can be negotiated to be less than 50%.
Housing options in Moscow. Moscow has very few types of housing, you will only have a vast choice of apartments of various types, sizes, decoration, layout and equipment. There are private houses and townhouses, but very limited, mostly in remote areas or outside Moscow.
The most comfortable areas are: center (roughly within the Third Ring), West, North West, South West, parts of South, parts of North. Generally to be avoided (for a multitude of various reasons): North East, East, South East.
Most expats prefer to live in the center of Moscow. Make sure to familiarize yourself with pros and cons living in Moscow downtown.
Despite popularity of the central parts of Moscow, very good or even excellent apartment options can be found in areas away from the center. It can be a newly built apartment complex with spacious and nicely equipped apartments with garage and all infrastructure nearby.
Typical, standard apartment will have: kitchen, bathroom (toilet can be separate from bathroom), living room and a bedroom. When you see number of rooms indicated in advertisements this means living room plus number of bedrooms. One-room apartments have just one room that serves both as living room and bedroom. One-room apartments are normally in higher demand because they are cheaper and more suitable for single people or families of two.
Before signing rental contract you need to check all the important details about the property. Whatever information you read in the advertising, can turn out to be a blunt lie. “Ten minutes from subway” may mean “ten minutes on a bus that runs every half hour and fifteen minutes on foot from the bus stop”. “Cozy, clean, quiet apartment” in reality can be old, rundown soviet flat, windows facing noisy street.
Apartment must haves: air conditioner, washing machine, water boiler, mosquito nets, thick metal door. Suggested extras: second entrance door, stationary water filter (reverse osmosis type). Most apartments come with kitchen furniture, stove and oven. Most rental apartments come fully furnished.
It is better to avoid apartments with all windows facing West. In each room facing West you will need to have air conditioner that you will have to run for the most part of summer.
Prices on renting apartment in Moscow vary. The cheapest rental cost is around 30K Rubles per month (around US$500 on today’s exchange rate). Use current exchange rate to calculate cost in other currencies. For 30K you get average one-room or two-room, (depending on location) apartment. Most likely all rental options for this price will be in remote areas, soviet style apartment buildings. If you are really on a budget, feasible consideration can be shared apartment or housing outside Moscow, in one of multiple satellite cities that make Moscow metro area. Prices for renting larger apartment closer to the center of Moscow has no limits. It can be 100K or it can be 300K or more, depending on many factors such as location, type of building, apartment design and equipment and many others.
When you found an option, you need to check few basic things. All checks below normally would be performed by a real estate agent. However it is for you to understand what needs checking and for what reason. Below list is nor fully complete, but covers essential pieces of information and checks you need to do on your own or, better with help of a real estate agent.
Apartment owner must provide proof of ownership. Ownership certificate and passport are documents certifying ownership. It is also good to check utility bills, that must have the same person’s name. In absence of certificate, real estate agent can request information from the state registry. If it turns out several people own one apartment it poses a number of potential issues.
First thing you need to check is whether apartment owner(s) will do a registration for you and your family. All people living in Russia: citizens, long time visitors alike required to obtain registration.
Registration is a formality of informing migration services on where you live. To obtain registration you need to fill standard forms, obtain signatures from the owner. Ones you have the forms, you go to a nearby organization called “multifunctional center”. The apartment owner must be with you in person and show their passport. Clerks will check your registration paperwork, stamp it and give you a registration slip. In some situations process can be different but 9 out of 10 cases it takes just a short trip to a nearby “multifunction center”, but it requires apartment owner to accompany you. If you plan to travel frequently, you will need to renew your registration every time you return back to Moscow and if apartment owner is not available, getting registration will be a hassle.
Judging by the number of questions asked online, registration seems to be a huge issue for foreigners in Moscow. Although apartment owners are required by the law to register all their tenants, many refuse to do registration for various reasons. Some owners hide income they receive on renting out their property to avoid paying taxes (4-6%). Some live abroad and can’t go with tenants to renew registration. There can be other obstacles.
First thing you need to be very positive about before signing rental contract — apartment owner will assist you with obtaining registration. Many owners will promise anything to get their apartment rented, but not many people in this culture keep their word. This is why you need to check yourself with help of your realtor if the owner is able to help you with registration.
Initial rental payment normally includes: rental cost for the fist month, rental cost for the last month and a deposit. Deposit is for covering possible damages caused to property by tenants. Deposit normally vary from 50% to 100% of monthly rental cost. Rental conditions usually require one month termination notice, last month payment covers that last month of stay. If you terminate earlier then one month, the amount will not be returned.
Rental contract. Many apartment owners are against signing contracts to avoid paying taxes and bearing responsibilities. If the owner refuses to sign the contract you must walk away from this rental option — rental contract is an absolute must. Good real estate agents know what the contract should look like, what needs to be included in what wording.
Beware, that documents in language other than Russian, legally not valid in Russia. Therefore you will need to sign contract in Russian and there must be someone who can explain rental contract to you item by item.
Any further agreement with apartment owner(s) must be fixed in written form only. In case of a dispute or argument between tenants and apartment owners, only written agreements will be considered. Verbal agreements are not valid in Russia.
Payments. Rental contract must specify how monthly payment is made. In Russia most of the time rental payments are done in cash. No matter what payment method is you need to have proof of payment. If rental setup is done in a legally proper way, apartment owner can receive payments onto their bank account. This means you need to have local bank account to make transfers. When you transfer money, the bank will give you paperwork that serves as proof of payment. If apartment owner is registered as solitary proprietor they can give you receipts as official proof of cash payment. If it’s cash paid privately, you need to obtain receipt note (in Russian — raspiska) on each amount you give to the apartment owner, including initial and monthly payments.
Before signing a contract, collect some information about the neighbors, including those living upstairs and downstairs. Any apartment building will have neighbors of all kinds, not always pleasant people. Looking at public areas of the apartment building, its overall condition and cleanliness, gives you hints on what kinds of people live here. Public places include staircases, lifts, entrance areas.
Soundproofing in most soviet era buildings made of concrete panels or blocks is almost nonexistent. Buildings that have best soundproofing are those built before 1953 and modern upper class (meaning pricier rental costs) apartment complexes.
Russians have no respect to residential laws especially when it comes to keeping noice down at night and weekends. Thus if you have noisy neighbors (drunks, young families, families with kids, people playing musical instruments and so on) you will be exposed to noises of all kinds. Renting apartment in a “prestigious” and more expensive areas of Moscow gives you absolutely no guarantees.
Besides being noisy, bad neighbors will cause other disturbing events such as banging at your door in the middle of the night, throwing cigarette butts on your balcony and into open windows, higher risks of flooding or fire and other unpleasant things.
Before moving in, you or your agent must document in detail (in written and photograph) property condition and all existing damages, even little ones. This is to avoid claiming damages on you when you move out. Many owners try to withhold deposit amount by pointing at scratches and small holes from nails, claiming money to do the repairs. To avoid this, conditions of deposit and its return must be clearly defined in a rental contract. Also all the damages must be documented before you move in.
Property condition detailing is signed by the owner and tenants and you keep your copy. The list must include all equipment and furniture and its condition. You wanna ensure that all electronic works, pipes do not leak, light switches do not shortcut and so on.
I hope you find this information useful. Subscribe to our mailing list and follow Russia Simplified Facebook page to keep updated on new articles.
Moscow gets negative temperatures and first snow in November. November through December, however, very often is a transitional period with unstable temperatures and precipitation fluctuating between rain, snow and sleet. I wrote an article on clothing for November-December weather What to wear when Moscow winter starts? Many of the suggestions of that article are valid for the whole winter in Moscow. In some years, like 2018, December is a normal winter month, with snow and stable negative temperatures.
In this article I am covering specific suggestions for clothing when Russian winter is its full swing.
Winter in Moscow and in all central Russia is long. Starting in November-December, winter in Moscow lasts for almost five months. March is a full scale winter with lots of snow. It starts to get warmer only in April and snow melts by the middle of April.
It is dark in Moscow winter. In December Moscow barely gets any sunny days, what you see above is a layer of grey solid clouds, lacking any texture or form. Day light starts somewhere around nine in the morning and around four in the afternoon it is completely dark again. Daytime and number of sunny days increases in January and February.
Moscow gets lots of snow in winter. In between major snowfalls it just quietly snows, non stop, almost all the time. Communal services are in a constant struggle with snow throughout the winter. They are helpless however, it’s too much snow to handle. Moscow streets get very slippery in winter, covered with ice or snow or a thick layer of mud, when temperatures get above zero or when street cleaners apply snow melting chemicals.
Moscow winter conditions can be compared with those in Canada, Northern US states (Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota), Finland and Sweden. This is just to give you an idea of what it feels like in Moscow.
Beware that all apartment buildings, public places, offices and public transportation have really good heating in winter. This means putting on too much clothes on will make you feel uncomfortable when you are inside.
Temperatures like -20C…-30C happen in Moscow, but not every year and normally do not last for long. We are talking about few days or perhaps a week of very cold weather and again, it does not happen every year.
In St. Petersburg temperatures are the same, but it feels much colder because of wind and humidity. Same applies to Far East and Northern coastal areas. In areas close to polar circle it gets much colder. In Siberia humidity is low, but temperatures are lower. In terms of clothing what is recommended below will perform well, but you might need extra layers such as good wool sweater, thermo underwear, shoes with fur insulation.
When buying winter clothing make sure it is suitable for Moscow climate. Many European countries have very mild climate and clothing that is good for European winter are not suitable for Russian winter.
Gloves. Must have good woven or leather gloves to withstand winter temperatures. Your hands will say thank you for thick pair of gloves with extra insulation layer made of wool or fleece.
Hat. It can be any type of hat, warm enough for the winter. Avoid hats made of cotton as they are not warm enough. Ideally, the material your hat is made of, would have some natural wool in its composition. Wool provides warmth, but extra layer of fleece also works good. No one wears those famous “classic Russian” fur hats anymore, as they are not very practical and very expensive. There are hats available in that style, just in modern design and made of modern materials. They are good not only for Moscow but for other, much colder areas of Russia, because they cover your head and ears completely.
Coat. It is suggested to wear waterproof parka or coat with hood. Insulation of your upper garment can be anything like down or sintepon.
Wool coats are not suitable for Russian winter unless you put on extra layers of insulation and scarf. Women might wear fur coats. Fur coats are extremely warm and perhaps stylish, however they are not always practical in snow as fur may get wet.
Hood on your winter coat or jacket is not everyday necessity, but very practical in winter conditions called “metel’“. “Metel’“ (метель) is a heavy snowfall combined with wind. Hood helps protecting your face and neck from wind and snow. Also, temperatures may get above zero in winter causing rain or sleet. This is when hood on your parka or coat becomes real efficient in keeping you warm and dry.
Lambskin coats are excellent to wear when it gets really cold (or in Siberia) or if you are coming from a warm climate and very sensitive to low weather temperatures in general. The downside of them is they are pricey, can be heavy, not practical in wet weather conditions and too warm for average Moscow winter temperatures.
I myself wear Canadian brand winter parka ($200, bought in Moscow) with hood and sintepon insulation. It is very warm, not requiring extra layers of insulation, it works excellent throughout Moscow winter. If it gets too cold or windy, putting on sweater or hoodie keeps me warm in any winter conditions regardless of how cold it is outside.
Pants. You can wear jeans or just thicker pants of any kind suitable for winter. If your coat or jacket covers your legs, it will give you extra warmth. If not, you can put on underpants, leggings style. Undergarments of this type available for women and men and can be purchased everywhere. It is often called “thermo” underwear, but in fact it can be made of some cotton composition and still provide that extra warms to your legs.
Shoes. Your footwear must serve three purposes in Russian winter. It must keep your feet warm, protect from water and provide extra support on slippery surfaces.
As mentioned above, Moscow gets lots of snow in winter. Snow and ice make streets very slippery. Despite best efforts in cleaning snow, there will be snowbanks everywhere. Street workers apply lots of chemicals to melt snow and it turns snow and ice into mud. Beware that snow melting chemicals will ruin any material
Shoes you are buying must come from an area where people know what real winter is. They must be clearly marked for winter use, have thick, sturdy sole, insulation, be slip-resistant and water-resistant.
Please be extra cautious on stairs outside, such as shop and office stairs, stairs to underground pedestrian walkways. Stairs in Russia are made of polished stone or tiles. In winter all of them get very slippery. Some of them are heated, but not everywhere.
If you need to wear business dress formal shoes, there is plenty of options available. You can buy office type of shoes with insulation of all kinds to protect your feet in the cold and snow.
It is uncomfortable to wear heavy winter shoes for the whole day in a warm office. Most Russian employees keep spare lighter shoes (from sneakers to formal dress shoes depending on company dress code) in the office to change for the day.
I personally wear insulated hiking boots. They are comfortable, warm, tall enough to protect feet up to an ankle. Insulation is not fur, but still very efficient against winter cold. When it gets really cold, a pair of wool socks provides extra insulation. I bought mine for $50 in an online store and they serve well in Moscow winter.
It is suggested to buy shoe driers for your shoes. Shoe driers are two small AC powered heaters, put inside your shoes overnight. In the morning your winter shoes will be warm and dry. Shoe driers are sold in any electronics store in Moscow and cost about $10.
Previous article explains general idea of the New Year holiday in Russia and December as a month of preparation.
How New Year celebration goes in Russia? The culmination of New Year is the night of December 31st that continues into the morning of January 1st. December 31st is a last day of preparation before holiday party kicks off.
Depending on a calendar, December 31st can be a working or non-working day. Each year Russian government tweaks New Year holiday schedule to make it ten consecutive days.
On December 31st people make final purchases of food and gifts, finalize cooking for New Year table and decorations of the house. Dressing up, applying makeup and doing hair is a big part of preparation as well.
In soviet times New Year celebration would take place mostly at home. Now, majority of Russians still have New Year parties in their homes. However there are other options available.
Some will go to clubs and restaurants for a New Year party. Entry to a New Year party is pricey, but despite the price, seats sell quickly, so if you plan on joining one of those parties, make booking in advance. New Year parties normally include table with food and entertainment. Depending on a place, level of food (and price) will vary. Some will have live artists and performances of famous artists, luxury food, some will have simpler menu and entertainment setups. Parties start late in the evening and continue throughout the night.
In Moscow, subway and some busses will be running all New Year night, so getting back home after the party is over will not be a problem.
Some people will leave the country and fly somewhere. Knowing Russian tradition, many resorts in popular touristic places organize New Year eve parties for Russian guests. Those parties again, go in the same fashion — dinner and entertainment.
Most people stay at home and celebrate New Year as a family holiday. Some families invite their friends or relatives to stay overnight and celebrate together. Some go to dacha if their dacha house allows staying in winter.
No matter where you celebrate, a way the night goes, is more or less the same and evolves around three primary activities — eating all night, drinking all night, watching music shows and other type of entertainment.
“How you meet New Year, is how you will live it”, Russian proverb.
By late evening of December 31st New Year tree is decorated. Everyone is dressed up. The table is full of food and alcohol is ready. TV is on.
People gather at the table, starting to eat and drink. Each drink goes with a toast. Before midnight all toasts are for the year that’s leaving and for coming new year - “S nastupayushim novim godom!”
Each household has its own food traditions for new year table. Some dishes seem to be common on many tables. Mandarins, olivie, seledka pod shuboi, caviar, holodetz. Olivie - mix of boiled root vegetables and sausage, seasoned with mayonnaise. Seledka pod shuboi - layered boiled root vegetables with herring at the bottom layer. Holodetz - meat jelly. “Narezka” - assortment of sliced meat delicacies has its place on each New Year table. As you can see these are mostly Russian-style salads. They are not the only ones to be on a New Year table, there will be main dish, like meat or poultry, many varieties of other salads, snacks, sweets.
People sit at the table, eating and watching New Year TV shows. Those TV shows have their own name of Goluboy Ogonyok (Little Light Blue Light). Goluboy Ogonyok means new year night entertainment on TV. Those shows start late in the evening of December 31st and continue throughout the night. Goluboy Ogonyok shows feature popular musicians, comedians, performers of all kinds, hours of entertainment, blended together under one continuous new year themed scenario.
Traditional movies, people watch exclusively on the New Year eve are: Karnavalnaya Noch (Carnival Night) (1956) and Ironiya Sudby (The Irony of Fate) (1976). Both movies have soviet New Year celebration as a key line of the plot. Both movies are great pieces of soviet cinematography. Most channels will broadcast them on the new year eve.
Midnight of the new year eve is a holiday culmination. Few minutes before midnight, Goluboy Ogonyok shows interrupt. President of Russia makes short speech to the whole nation. Precisely when President’s message ends, all TV channels show tower clock on Kremlin Spasskaya Tower, aligned at 12, bells of Spasskaya Tower start to chime last 12 strokes of a year. Everyone stands and toasts with glasses of champaign. As tradition suggests, it is important to drink whole glass of champaign and make a wish, before bells strike for the last time. After that, national anthem of Russia plays. Ones the anthem is over, Goluboy Ogonyok shows resume. People continue eating, drinking with toasts, now for a, for a new year - “S Novim Godom!”
After midnight people might go outside to do fireworks. Fireworks will continue for the whole night.
Due to unstable weather in December, it is very rare to have snow and below zero temperatures on a New Year night. As far as I can remember, most of years Moscow had no snow on a New Year night, it’s either raining or just warm.
Parties go on until early morning. Morning of January 1st is the quietest time in Russia.