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.