Holidays in Russia

Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his helpers

Maslyanitsa (Shrovetide)

Banks, government offices, libraries and educational establishments are closed on the following days:

New Year's HolidaysJanuary, 1-5
Russian Orthodox Christmas January, 7
Day of the Defender of the Motherland February, 23
Women's Day March, 8
Day of Spring and Labour May, 1
Victory Day May, 9
Independence Day June, 12
Day of People's Unity November, 4

Stores may be open on for fewer hours on some of these days. Sometimes it can be a little complicated figuring out which days the country shuts down. If the holiday falls on Monday or Friday, then everything is simple - it's a day off. If it falls on a weekend, then Friday or Monday will also be a day off. If it falls on Tuesday or Thursday then the weekend will be shifted a day in the right direction and Saturday or Sunday becomes a working day, with the three days off being Sunday-Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday-Saturday. If the holiday falls on Wednesday then there is no long weekend.

Other holidays observed in Russia:

Valentine's DayFebruary, 14
Shrovetide One Sunday in February (March)
April Fool's Day April, 1
Easter One Sunday in Spring
Children's Day June, 1
Day of Knowledge September, 1
Day of Elderly People October, 5
Mother's Day Last Sunday in November

Like any other nation the Russians are famous for their own peculiar customs and traditions kept through the centuries.

Peter the Great, an outstanding Russian monarch, introduced many changes to the life of Russia and the Russian calendar. For instance, he brought in European chronology in Russia which started with the birth of Christ.

The New Year is first on the calendar and in popularity. Many celebrate it twice, on January 1 and 14, which corresponds to January 1 in the Julian calendar used in Russia before 1918.

Church holidays have been reborn. Christmas, one of the main Christian holidays in Russia, is celebrated on the 7th of January in compliance with the Russian Orthodox calendar. The festive and merry days of Christmas are called Christmas-tide in Russia. There is no any other holiday celebrated in compliance with so many traditions and ceremonies.

One of the ceremonies is called "Kolyadki". The ceremony includes wishing of wealth and happiness to everybody. During the ceremony a snow-lady is made with a carrot nose, eyes of prunes and teeth of green beans. Lady Kolyada comes to the holiday to congratulate people and enjoy merry games and fun. Lady Kolyada is accompanied by some people bearing stars. They sing and dance in a ring on the snow with fired torches and push the festive wheel.

At the end of winter Shrovetide (a pancake week) comes. In Russian Pancake week is called "Maslyanitsa". Shrovetide is an ancient festival dating from pagan times. The Christian historians say that those were really "mad" days in the past. People wore funny masks and costumes, sometimes, men wore women's clothing and vice versa. Such masquerade anticipated a merry festival, when delicious food and a lot of wine was consumed. At first it was a festival that celebrated the arrival of spring and the start of work on the land. It included many rituals (burning a man of straw symbolizing winter, lighting fires, leaving festival food on the ancestors' graves) and feasts, the main food at which were bliny. The feast fighting was one more great fun that helped to get warm on cold winter days. Later, the Orthodox Church included Shrovetide among its festivals. Shrovetide has lost its ritual significance and has become a symbolic festival of saying good-bye to winter and welcoming spring. At present special performances are held during Pancake week. Throughout the whole week people cook pancakes (bliny).

Easter (in Russian "Paskha") is celebrated in all Christian countries and in Russia as well. Special round-shaped sweet breads (Easter cakes) are baked. Moreover, eggs are painted in different bright colours. The coloured egg, most often red, is the main symbol of Russian Easter. It symbolizes eternal life, birth and perpetual renewal.

The next Sunday, which comes right after Easter is called the Red Hill holiday. This day is considered the best for wedding ceremonies.

The folk holiday called Troitsa (Green Yule-tide) is also celebrated in Russia. In old times houses were decorated with green branches. Young birch-trees were covered with girlish clothes. People sang songs and danced round the birch-trees. The garlands made of birch branches and flowers were put into water for fortune telling.