The most widely celebrated holiday in Russia is the New Year on December 31st. Russians decorate their “Yolkas” (Christmas trees), and chop “Olivie” and “Herring under the fur coat” salads. No celebration goes without the traditional TV entertainment followed by the speech of the Russian President and bell ringing on the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower. Once the bells ring twelve times, the real Russian New Year party starts and the entire country slips into a food and alcohol induced coma until January 11th.
The Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated two weeks after the Catholic Christmas on January 7th in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. The tradition to celebrate Christmas was reborn after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in modern Russia everyone who survived the New-Year’s hangover makes their way to church on January 7 to light candles for the loved ones.
With the Russians’ love for festivities it is not even surprising that they celebrate the New Year twice. The so called Old New Year is celebrated by the Gregorian calendar on January 14. The Old New Year consummates the winter holiday season in Russia and makes even the most avid party-animals sober up and go back to work.
If February 23 is not considered to be worthy enough to make an official day off, March 8 not only made a public holiday list but also bears a proud title of the International Women’s Day. On this day the flower stalls make annual revenue, and the men become submissive and supple. The women, on the other hand, look even more beautiful than ever and expect gifts and attention all day long.
The Defender of the Fatherland holiday is one of the most important in Russia, and it is something that decks out the whole city of Moscow because it is bigger there than it is anywhere else. You will see a massive parade that comes through the city on February 23rd, and you will be able to sit on the sidewalk while you see the parade go by. This is a piece of Russian history that you should not miss, and you will be glad that you had a look when you could.
Traditionally, Labor Day (First of May) commences the ten-day long “dacha” marathon. On this day, Moscow commuter trains are flooded with seedlings and baskets. May 1st is the official opening of the gardening season, when Moscovites rush to the country side to attend to their plots of land.
The day of commemoration of the end of World War II is celebrated in Russia with mind-bogging grandeur and includes the parade of the surviving WWII veterans and the demonstration of the Russian military might. Only on May 9 one can see the real tanks on Moscow avenues and admire the virtually empty Tverskaya Street – the main Moscow artery, chronically overwhelmed with traffic.
Independence Day is a fairly new holiday celebrated on June 12th and considered by most Russians as merely an extra day off to spend at the dacha.
The locals try to spend this summer day (2nd of August) in the country further away from the capital, while almost every city fountain becomes the gathering spot for rowdy strong guys in telnyashka shirts celebrating their professional holiday.
This back to school day on the first of September is celebrated nationwide by all school children and students. It also has an unofficial name “The day of bows and gladioli” – just go outside to see for yourself why.
GoToRussia.com is a project of Visa Express, Inc., a US-based corporation, providing travel and visa services since 1998. We have Russian, Ukrainian and American employees and our company history began at a time when Russia-US relations were on an exciting upswing, led by two charismatic presidents — Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.
Unfortunately, times have changed, and Russia is now ruled by an autocratic leader, who destroyed all liberal and democratic institutes, installed corrupt loyalists in all powerful positions, got rid of free elections and an independent judicial system, jailed opposition activists and caused the largest brain-drain immigration in the country’s history.
We deplore Russia’s war against Ukraine and the annexation of its territories, beginning with the Crimea in 2014. We believe in Ukraine’s right of self-determination and trust that Russia will lose in this awful conflict and will never be able to force itself onto any more countries or territories.
As for what used to be our core business — if you have friends or relatives in Russia and would like to go visit them, we are still able to assist with entry visas. We do continue issuing visas as we understand that many families are divided between the countries and it would be inhumane to sever connections now, when they’re needed more than ever. However, if you’re planning a leisure trip to Russia at this time, we would not want to help you — now is not a good time to spend your vacation money in Russia.
We donate part of our profits to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Alex Khodorkovsky, President and CEO