Old New Year in Russia – what’s up with that?

Did you know that Russians not only celebrate New Year on the night of 31st December and 1st January, they also have a special, however, unofficial celebration for Old New Year two weeks later? The reason this holiday even exists lies in the result of a calendar change that happened centuries ago. This is truly a cultural phenomenon. 

When is Russian New Year?

In 1918, the Gregorian calendar was introduced to the world to replace the Julian calendar that people had been using before. The Gregorian calendar dates are often referred to as «new” style and Julian calendar as “old” style. By this calendar transition, all the days were moved. This way 1 January has now became 14 January. Some people didn’t want to change their habits and continued to celebrate the new year on 14 January. Moreover, celebrating New Year on the 14th of January is more logical for Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January. 

Russian holiday tradition

Let’s face the facts, there is no scientifically proven date to celebrate the new year. People are just used to celebrating it on the night of December 31 to January 1 but we could have had this holiday on any day of the year. But most of the world’s population chose to set the new year date on 1 January.

Some psychologists believe that one of the main reasons why Russians celebrate the Old New Year is basically because of the seasonal affective disorder. There is less light and the weather is cold, which makes people depressed. And what is the better way to help your mood swings than to have a holiday? All the decorations, holiday rush, colors all around, tasty food can really boost your mood. Holidays can help to take your mind off your problems. Winter is believed to be the most depressing time of the year and one when holidays are much needed. That is why Russians chose to celebrate the new year twice.

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Russian New Year traditions

There a special traditions that are fogged in Russia during the Old New Year and Old New Year’s Eve. Vasiliev evening on January 14 is a special part of Old New Year’s celebration. Centuries ago, people would start preparing in advance: new clothes would be bought and sewed, a lot of food would be cooked. It was impossible to celebrate the new year without traditional food like kutja. Russians believe that the way you spend your New Year’s eve affects the way the entire year will happen, so they wanted to have the abundance of everything on the table. Cooking a huge pig for the evening was the symbol of the land and livestock fertility in the upcoming year. People aimed to have as much food on the table as possible. 

Another tradition was cooking porridge. Before dawn when the porridge was ready the whole family would start trying it. If they didn’t like it or their board was correct it meant lack of happiness and luck in the upcoming year.

A lot of people still follow the tradition of caroling on the Old New Year’s Eve. They would go from house to house and sing songs about family well-being to the owners of the house.

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