Major Russian Holidays
New Year — January 1: New Year's Day is one the most favorite holidays in Russia. Both grown-ups and children are happy on this day. On the Eve of this holiday or just on this very day, people exchange presents, have fun, launch fireworks, decorate pines and fir-trees, cook delicious things and lay a holiday table. The irreplaceable participants of this holiday are Father Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka (“Snow Girl”). The holiday lasts till next morning. Everyone who believes in goodness makes an intimate wish and thanks God for everything good that had happened that year. For the first time this holiday was announced by the order of Peter the Great dated by January 20, 1700. This order gave detailed instructions on how New Year's Day is to be celebrated. Many people used to see the New Year in on January 14 (using the old calendar). A tradition of telling fortunes on this night is also very popular among young ladies and fellows who are willing to know at least a little bit about their near future.
Orthodox Christmas — January 7: This period from 7 till 19th of January is the best period for telling fortunes, as it is the Saint Christmas week, when people have fun, wear fancy dresses and walk from one home to another asking for favors.
On the night of the 7th of January (according to the Orthodox calendar) is Christmas. Over the Christmas holidays people try to be better and purer; it is the time when Christian values are of particular importance, and a time for good deeds. Christmas is the holiday of waiting for miracles. As once it had happened in Bethlehem — the Rescuer of humanity was born, so it must happen every year on this day. That's why both grown-ups and children are waiting for Christmas with such impatience and even if the miracle doesn't take place, the holiday is very nice with its unique mixture of folk and Christian customs and tradition.
The Student Day ( Tatyana's Day ) — January 25: in Russia it is a merry holiday celebrating the students, as on this very day January, 25th 1775 Emperor Elizabeth signed a decree (prepared by count Shuvalov) that established the Moscow University.
Holiday of lovers — St. Valentine's Day — February 14: Christian martyr Valentine was condemned to capital punishment by the Roman pagans, but even in cruel conditions he never stopped thinking of his lover, the jailer's daughter. He sent her a message full of love and tenderness.
This holiday, inherited from the Western culture, is now very popular in Russia.
The Army Day — Men's Day — February 23: This holiday is celebrated on the 23rd of February. It is our tribute of respect to all the generations of Russian soldiers, from the ancient times to nowadays, to those who would courageously protect our motherland from invaders. On this day, all of the male population, from boys to old men, receive salutations and presents, and the military men salute one another as well. Women have a happy opportunity to say the warmest and the sweetest words to their lovers, and to shower them with affection.
The Pancake Day — February 27 till the beginning of March: It is a holiday of ancient Slavs in honor to Vles, the Eastern pagan God of fertility. It is a holiday of saying goodbye to the winter and welcoming the spring.
The Orthodox Church considers the Pancake Day to be a Christian holiday: the so-called cheese week. It precedes the Fast and is celebrated 7 weeks before Easter. It is a merry folk holiday when old rubbish or hey scarecrows are burnt. Most people put on animal skins and put soot on their faces to drive wicked spirits away.
Women's Day — March 8: Born at a time of great social turbulence and crisis, the International Women's Day (IWD) inherited a tradition of protest and political activism. In the years before 1910, from the turn of the 20th century, women in industrially developing countries were entering paid work in some numbers. Their jobs were sex segregated, mainly in textiles, manufacturing and domestic services where conditions were wretched and wages worse than depressed. In Europe, the flames of revolution were being kindled.
It was German socialist Clara Zetkin who was the real mother of IWD. In 1907 she had organized an International Conference of Socialist Women and called for all socialist parties to fight energetically for women's suffrage. Zetkin was bitterly opposed to bourgeois feminism and wanted to ensure that working class women were not lured away from their class movement by default. The conference participants, including Alexandra Kollontai, a Russian revolutionary, discussed demonstrating to publicize their support for women's equality.
In 1908 Branch Number 3 of the New York City Socialist Democratic Women's Society took up the call by organizing a mass meeting on women's suffrage on March 8th. The following year the American Socialist Party declared the last Sunday in February to be National Woman's Day.
Russian socialist women followed suit from 1913, celebrating IWD like the American socialists on the last Sunday in February. In Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), on 23 February 1913 an IWD demonstration by women textile workers turned into bread riots and then into the February revolution. The fact that 23 February on the old Russian calendar corresponded to 8 March on the Western calendar adopted after the revolution set the date for the Soviet celebrations of IWD from 1918.
From 1922 Clara Zetkin headed the International Women's Secretariat of the Communist International in Moscow and IWD became an official Communist holiday. It became International Women's Day after the Second World War.
March 8 became the first spring holiday in Russia. Up to this day, it is an official day off and both men and women of Russia are looking forward to this holiday. It has long lost its political meaning and is looked upon as a day to celebrate the unconditional love, sacrifice, patience, wisdom, and beauty of the Russian women.
April Fool's Day (the Day of laughter) — April 1: They say it is not a sin to laugh at everything that seems fun. Doctors confirm that laughter prolongs life. It is considered that those who can laugh at themselves achieve a lot.
This fun holiday was not celebrated anywhere until recently, but has now become a custom. Everybody tries to play a trick on their friends.
Orthodox Easter — two weeks after Catholic Easter: It is the main Christian holyday established in honor to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ crucified on the cross and to the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
Easter is held on the first Sunday after the vernal equinox and it is celebrated solemnly and merrily. The date of Easter is usually determined by the church calendar and calculated using the so-called paskhalias — the special tables.
The Holiday of Spring and Labor — May 1: The 1st of May is the traditional holiday of spring. It ushers in other May holidays. It is the day of triumph of the nature which is full of florescence, birds singing, multicolored flowers and balloons. People take a rest both from the long frosty winter and their winter troubles, looking forward to the summer and its summer joys.
Victory Day — May 9: The greatest holiday for Russian people bringing both joy and sorrow. There is also much more on this day, as defending our independence, bringing down “the brown plague” and rising up with dignity to the test of war are celebrated. A great gratitude is displayed to those who gave their lives for today's peace and happiness, and this eternal memory will last forever.
The International Day of the Child — June 1: What is sunnier, more joyful, and more memorable than the childhood? A child gets to know the world, learns of good and of friendship, finds out new in familiar things. A child is happy when he or she is loved and fed, and given warmth and understanding. Children are the future of mankind, holding tomorrow in their hands. Their right for life and dignity must be respected and defended.
Trinity is the unity of three God's faces: God Father, God Son and Sacred Spirit. It is a Christian holyday. It is celebrated on the 50th day after Easter, hence its other name, Pyatidesyatnitsa (the 50th day).
On this day, the Holy Spirit went down on the Apostles and gave them Christ's instructions to spread news of Christianity to all the peoples and in all languages. This holiday is held in accordance to the folk rites.
Homes are decorated with twigs of birch, the departed are remembered, and in the evening, people sing and dance in circles. In Russia, White Sunday merged with the Semitic holiday. It honors the spirit of plants. People also celebrate the Parents' Saturday.
The Day of Knowledge — September 1: Every year, after a kind hot summer, on the 1st of September kids go back to their classes to continue their jorney in the Land of Wisdom whose ways they learn as they're growing up so they could reach adulthood with all the necessary knowledge. On this day, the doors of colleges, universities, institutes, and graduate schools are also opened.
Our country enjoys special grace and protectorship of the Holy Mother, so honoring the Blessed Virgin is important to our people. That is why in the recent years, along with the traditional holiday of the 8th of March, Mother's Day is also celebrated.
The Constitution Day — December 12: On this day in 1993, the new Constitution of the Russian Federation was approved — the fundamental law of the state and one of the most important democractic institutions.
Name Days (Angel's Days)