There are many Russian holidays and celebrations that take place throughout the year. Many stem from traditional religious celebrations, or rituals marking the change in seasons. There are also a few modern celebrations such as Valentine's Day, which has a similar meaning in Russia, as it does in the West.
In this section, we give you an overview of the major celebrations and public holidays in Russia, and how the Russian people like to celebrate them. You might be surprised to see many traditional celebrations that date back to village days, but you must remember that Russia has a very strong belief in keeping traditions alive and well. On the other hand, many of the popular and commercial holidays from the west, such as Valentine's Day, are starting to become very popular in Russia as well.
See Also - Russia Public Holidays
The belief is that the way you celebrate the New Year will indicate how you will fare in the remainder of that year. So, everyone wants to have a dinner table filled to the brim! To dress up in flash new clothes, and dresses, to mingle with family and friends, take photographs, drink and laugh until dawn.
Usually, people spend the New Years Eve dinner at home with their extended family. Only after midnight, when the New Year has begun, will young people head out to parties and nightclubs with friends.
Russians give and receive gifts on New Years, and according to
fairytale, they are visited by Grandfather Frost, Ded Moroz,
who is accompanied by Snegurochka,
snowmaiden who helps to distribute the gifts.
The major Russian holidays are marked according to the Orthodox Calendar, given that the main religion in Russia is Russian Orthodox.
Easter - Easter is a major celebration in Russia. The date changes each year, as it does in the West, determined by the lunar calendar. Russians celebrate with a traditional feast, and the customary painting of hard-boiled eggs. See our detailed description of the traditions and customs relating to Russian Easter.
Christmas - Christmas in Russia is celebrated on the 7th of January, two weeks after the celebrations in the West. It is an occasion that is returning to prominence, after being banned during the Soviet years. Find out more about Russian Christmas.
Valentine's Day - Valentine's Day (February 14) is a big celebration in Russia. All over the country, lovers celebrate their love for each other with romantic gifts, cards, and words of gratitude and appreciation. The day is also celebrated by friends, and it is not unusual for a girl to receive cards and gifts from her friends (male and female), and her family.
International Women's Day - The most important day for women in Russia. The 8th of March is an internationally recognised day to celebrate women, and it is now a public holiday in Russia. You should know that for Russian women, this day is a BIG deal! Bigger than Valentine's Day, and a date not to forget if you want to show your love for your wife or girlfriend!
Men usually give flowers to all women at their workplace, as well as to their mothers, sisters, and of course their wife or girlfriend. Breakfast in bed might be a good idea too!
This day is a reason for visiting friends and family, or to invite them to your place for a large meal and celebration. Occasionally, women prefer to celebrate this day without any men - in Russian it is called 'devichnik'.
See more information about International
The Russian Government is doing its best to encourage a resurgence of traditional Russian holidays, in order to keep the rich culture and traditions alive in younger generations.
White Nights (Beliye Nochi) - This famous festival celebrates the high-point of summer in St Petersburg, when 24-hour sunshine bathes this beautiful city. Millions of tourist come from all over Russia, and around the world to celebrate this fantastic event! More on White Nights in St Petersburg...
Maslenitsa - Otherwise known as Pancake Week, this is a traditional celebration to mark the start of spring. It involves a week of different celebrations and customs - see more detail about Maslenitsa.
Medoviy Spas - "Honey Day" is celebrated on the 14th of August. This is the first of three days marking the harvest of crops that have been planted and prepared over summer, and ready for winter. This day marks the end of the bees gathering nectar, and is a signal that the people can begin to collect honey. The traditional custom was to bring honey to the church for blessing, and there were also many stalls displaying a vast array of pleasant tasting honeys.
Yablochniy Spas - "Apple Day" is celebrated on the 19th of August. Apples were ripening around this time, and again the custom was to pick them and bring them to the church for blessing. People eat apples with honey, and then participate in games, activities, and performances.
Orekhoviy Spas - Another 'harvest' celebration, this day is celebrated on the 29th of August, and marks the 'ripening' of nuts and grains. This is the last of the three harvest days, thus closing the time of celebration. It is a good time for all, as the cupboards are full with the harvest.
Name Days - In Russia, every name has a day on which it is celebrated. It is a very old tradition, celebrated not so much in Russian in modern times, but certainly it is widely known in all of countries that fell under the Soviet umbrella. Latvia, for example, still celebrates this tradition, and every day you can hear on the radio a congratulations for whichever name it happens to be on that particular day. You can greet someone with a small present, flowers, a cake, etc.
Tatyana's Day - On January 25th, Russians celebrate Tatyana's Day. Otherwise known as Student's Day, the occasion celebrates students across the country. It was named after Saint Tatyana, who lived in the late 2nd, early 3rd Century, and was killed for her beliefs in the Orthodox Religion.
In 1755, on the 25th of January (12th on the old calendar), Tatyana's day, the St Petersburg University was founded, and Tatyana became known as the patroness of students. On this day, top students in schools and universities receive awards, and the day also marks the beginning of the winter holidays for students in all high schools. Hence, it is one of the most popular Russian holidays for young people.