This is my third time celebrating New Year in Russia and every year has its own story. The first year I lived here, I was kind of surprised by how Russians celebrate one of the most important dates in their calendar. As I am used to living in Indonesia, where you are given the freedom to choose whether you will celebrate New Year’s Eve or not (normally I take option two: not celebrating, as I always fell asleep before midnight), in Russia I experienced something which is known as culture shock. I had no choice but to celebrate it, because they do!
From the second week of December, Russians usually are in a mad dash preparing everything: buying presents for family, decorating the house and also the Christmas tree, and last but not least…choosing a lot of food and beverages which they will serve that night. Even though every family has its own tradition, the most important food which must be on their table is Olivie. This salad is a must. It’s not a new year if you forget to make it.
About presents, I think this part is one of my favorites. This tradition is similar to Christmas but, as Christmas is not as popular as New Year, they decide to move the celebration to New Year. Every member of the family should give presents one to another. It’s interesting for me, as in Indonesia we are so stingy, I mean we even forget the birthdays of our family members easily. So, don’t expect that you will get any presents there, despite of how friendly we are – say foreigners who have visited Indonesia. It doesn’t mean I am a materialistic girl or anything, but I wouldn’t dare to refuse any kind of warmness or kindness which is shaped in a present from somebody. Frankly, I get many presents only when I live in Russia. They like to give presents: on your birthday, on Women’s/Men’s Day, on New Year's Eve, and so forth.
How do Russians decorate their houses before the New Year celebration? Not much, but normally they have a Christmas tree and if the family has some kids, they will have also Ded Morozh and Snegurochka. Who are they? Ded is a shortened word from “Dedushka – grandfather” and Morozh means freeze. So, you can guess that Ded Morozh is a kind of Santa Claus. But, from my point of view, “Russia’s Santa Claus” looks more elegant (sorry, this is my opinion only), as he wears a long fur coat and I am a fan of it. A long coat always looks good on people. And he is not alone! As I mentioned before, he often goes with Snegurochka – sneg – snow (snowkin) who appears to be his granddaughter. They both will give presents and will be glad to hear you recite your own poem. So, they won’t sneakily come to your room and just put down a present. Nope. In Russia they come when you are awake.
And are they the real thing? Of course, no, although I hope so. They are just father, brother or one of your acquaintances who come in the costume of those figures. Sometimes, when they think they don’t have the right girl, they will ask a man to be Snegurochka.
It’s a peculiarity, but Russians won’t start eating until they watch a speech from their president. Not because they are fans of Putin etc, but because it is a signal that the New Year has come just as the president gives his speech at 23.59, or some minutes before New Year.