Do you experience a flat sensation as soon as 25th December is over? Find yourself locked in a post-Christmas stupor of purposeless chocolate eating and soup making? Looking forward to going back to work on the 2nd January?
The solution to these problems is simple – spend New Year in Moscow.
The Soviets banned Christmas along with religion, and repurposed certain Christmas traditions for 31st December. They also changed the calender, and that meant that New Year falls before Orthodox Christmas. As a result, New Year is the biggest celebration of the year in Russia.
And includes decorated trees.
Lots and lots of decorated trees.
It combines not only the same private family eatathon and present giving binge every Christmas-celebrating family will recognise, but also a very public festival, which sees the Moscow streets decorated to the max.
And very little of it has anything to do with enticing you into the shops to spend all of your money.
Well, maybe some of it.
Either way, instead of everyone lying around wondering what day it is and when the bins will be collected, the week before New Year is when peak anticipation, preparation and goodwill to all men is happening in Moscow. You know that happy feeling you get in the run up to 25th? Totally kicking off for anyone in Moscow for New Year just as you are wondering if it was all worth it.
Even if you do not get invited to someone’s house to consume more salad and champagne than you thought possible in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, there is always the option of getting outside and enjoying the fireworks. Firework displays take place not just next to the Kremlin or Red Square, but (this year) in over twenty parks around the capital of Russia.
They stagger it too. Some displays start at 12 midnight on the nose, and some allow you to watch the president’s address on TV, finish your dinner, bundle the kids into a whole bunch of clothes and saunter outside to catch the booms bang whee wizzzes at 1am. If you think Hogmanay is a big deal, you haven’t been in Moscow on New Year’s Eve.
And the 1st to the 7th January, when Orthodox Christmas takes place, is a state sponsored holiday. This year, for example, there’s a three-day street party of even more decorations, performances, food stalls and closed streets to add to the already extensive pedestrianisation of the city centre.
There’s an ice festival; many of Moscow’s museums and art galleries will be free; you can see New Year children’s shows, called yolkas after the traditional New Year tree; meet up with the Russian Santa, Ded Moroz and his granddaughter Snegurochka; go to the Bolshoi or similar for New Year ballets such as the Nutcracker; and boggle at New Year ice skating extravaganzas in Moscow’s stadiums, featuring ice skating stars as well as outragous costumes.
You can go ice skating yourself as well – some of Moscow’s most fabulous public spaces have outdoor skating rinks set up. Including Red Square and Gorky Park.
And on Red Square there is also a Christmas/ New Year market.
There may even be snow, although sadly this is the one thing you can’t put your money on any more. It’s well above zero at the moment this year and the snow has melted.
On the upside, this means you can get some great shots for Instagram of the Moscow’s fabulous decorative New Year lights gleaming their reflections in the puddles.
Plus, you know that debate about whether to wish people a Happy Christmas or Happy Holidays? Totally a non-issue for this inclusive secular holiday. C Noviim Godom works for everyone.
Spending New Year in Moscow. You know it makes sense. Get planning.
And if you want more ideas about what to do, here is THE guide to Moscow for first time visitors.
Moscow city’s official site. In English.
This is what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has to say about celebratory meals in Russia (which Mama wrote!).
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