Understanding Russian Culture
Here are some tips for understanding Russian culture: language, holidays, and traditions.
Russians have their own customs, exchanging gifts or performing pranks according to their holidays.
Did you know that Russia is the largest country in the world?
Holidays and Traditions of Russia
New Years Eve
If you’re anything like me, then the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is one of the best times to catch up on sleep. While we may be missing out a little on festivities, there’s also an upside to these few days.
New Year’s Eve is a special night in Russia. It’s believed that the way you spend this night (especially when the clock strikes midnight) determines who will you have a year with. A tradition during New Year’s is to toast the incoming year and thank the old one.
In addition to Christmas, Russians celebrate New Year’s for ten days.
Traditionally, the eve of January 6th was when people would have their readings created, but many now do so on Christmas Eve to celebrate Russian traditions.
When Russians celebrate New Year’s, they usually celebrate the Old New Year on January 14th. People usually keep their Christmas trees until this day, and there may be small presents exchanged.
Day of The Defender of The Fatherland
The Day of The Defender of The Fatherland is an important holiday in today’s Russia. It was established in 1922 as a celebration of the foundation of the Red Army. On this day, men and boys receive gifts and congratulations, while women in the military are also congratulated on the same day. Informally, the Fatherland Day is best known as Men’s Day.
The origins of Maslenitsa, which later became the Eastern Orthodox Christmas, are connected to the old pagan celebrations. The story was that originally it was all about honoring the sun, and no one’s exactly sure when that tribute changed to honoring Jesus Christ on Christmas.
Pancakes represent the sun and are burned at the conclusion of Maslenitsa week. Typical activities during this time include pancake making, games, harp music, and much more. The ritual of Maslenitsa is an ancient celebration, dating back to the pagan days when Russians worshiped the Sun. The ritual merged with Christian customs from Christianity’s introduction to Russia until they were predominantly Christian.
The Maslenitsa celebration is an event to both send off winter, and welcome spring. A Maslenitsa doll is burned at the end of the week to symbolize this. There are many traditional Russian activities that happen during the week, including pancake-making, performances by clowns, snowball fights, and harp music. Pancakes are traditionally eaten with a variety of toppings such as honey, caviar, sour cream, and jam.
International Women’s Day
People in Russia celebrate International Women’s Day by giving gifts to women in their lives. This day is seen as a romantic holiday similar to Valentine’s Day.
Easter is the most important holiday for Russian Orthodox Christians. On this day, many traditional Russian dishes are eaten: kulich, or Easter bread with raisins, for example. People greet each other by saying “Christ is risen,” which is answered with “Truly He is risen.”
For this dish, eggs are boiled in onion skin water to make them red or brown. Alternatively, eggs can be painted and cracked on loved ones’ foreheads after boiling.
A solemn Russian holiday to commemorate the date Nazi Germany surrendered in World War II. The day is celebrated by annual military parades. The March of the Immortal Regiment, which began in 2012, honors those lost by carrying photos of beloved Russians who died in the war.
The Day of Russia
Celebrated on June 12th, where they have great events across the country. More recently, it has turned into a patriotic event with people celebrating across the country. There are grand fireworks at Red Square in Moscow.
Celebrated on the 6th of July, cultures follow Pagan and Christian rituals. The night takes place six months after Russian Orthodox Christmas and is an important date in Polish culture.
The modern celebration takes inspiration from the traditions of John the Baptist and the ancient Rus goddess Kupala. The night has playful water-based pranks, and some romantic traditions, like jumping over a fire with a partner to see if their love will last. Single women float wreaths down a river and single men try to catch them in hopes of capturing the woman they captured.
The Ivan Kupala day takes its modern name from John the Baptist and the ancient Rus goddess Kupala. In modern Russia, the nighttime celebration features silly water-related pranks and a few romantic traditions, like couples holding hands while jumping over a fire to see if their love will last. Single young women float flower wreaths down a river, while single men try to catch them in hopes of capturing the attention of the woman whose wreaths they catch.
Before the Russian Revolution, Russians celebrated Pagan customs that merged with Christian traditions. As Christianity was adopted, holiday traditions were adjusted to coexist with it. Nowadays, there are many holiday celebrations in Russia which were adapted from traditional Slavic holidays and languages.
Russians now enjoy their own holiday traditions and produce unique gifts according to the tradition they are celebrating.
When Christmas was forbidden during Russia’s Soviet era, many Russians began practicing Christmas customs on New Year’s.