Russian Customs

Many Russian customs of the modern era are not terribly old, dating back to the time of Peter the Great, a couple hundred years ago, or to socialism, in the last century. Here, we’ve gather the main customs and traditions of the Russian people in a short but informative way.

Russian New Year’s Traditions

Russians celebrate New Years on January 1st, though it hasn’t been that way forever. For a long time, the new year started in March, and then from 1492 through 1699, New Year’s was September 1st. During these years, the New Year’s traditions that are celebrated today became popular. However, in 1699, Peter the Great moved New Year’s to its current date, January 1st. This tradition has persisted to this day, and today, Russians celebrate this main winter holiday on the night of December 31st and January 1st.

Russian customs for New Years involve a lot of similarities with European and American versions of winter holidays: families will decorate a tree, light a fire in the fireplace, and will hang stockings for gifts. A big New Year’s tree is usually placed on the main square of each city, though now often artistic installations in the shape of a tree (made of anything from cactuses to nails) are used. Read more...

Russian Children’s Customs

The Russian characters of Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and Snegurochka (Little Snow Flake) appeared not long ago, just over a century ago. Before this, the Slavs had a mythical character called Moroz (“frost”), who was more often called Studenets or Treskunets. Ded Moroz is similar to Santa Claus, though Ded Moroz comes to children on New Year’s. Snegurochka, his granddaughter, helps him give out presents, organize dances, and entertain children. Today, this Russian children’s custom even appears at corporate events, and now almost every party includes a visit from Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.

For a child’s birthday party, Russian families will invite actors to entertain children. The birthday kid will have a cake with candles, with one candle for every year, to represent experiences gained each year in life, and the child will make a wish when they blow out the candles. These traditions are similar to what children do in a variety of other countries, including European countries.

It’s important to note that Russian women won’t buy anything for their dowry while they are pregnant. It’s thought that this will bring bad luck to the child. This dates back quite a while, to the Russian children’s tradition of starting to collect for the dowry when a girl is a teenager, even if she’s not preparing to get married for years.

Russian Traditions for Graduation

The tradition of holding graduation balls appeared in Russia in the past few centuries. During the time of Peter the Great, aristocrats would grand receptions for any reason, and at the same time, it became stylish to send children to prestigious academic institutions. Girls were sent to finishing schools, while boys were sent to cadet corps. A new Russian tradition was also formed, whereby people started creating libraries at home to show of their status and education. This tradition has been preserved to the present day.

As for graduates, the end of school is usually marked with grand celebrations. Read more...

New Russian Holidays

Even newer Russian holidays were created during Soviet times, which soon became new traditions and new Russian customs. For example, Defender of the Fatherland Day is February 23rd. This holiday celebrates all the men (and women) who served in the armed forces. To balance this out, the Soviet Union started celebrating all of the women on International Women’s Day, March 8th. This holiday celebrates all of the girls, women, mothers, and grandmothers. These two holidays are similar to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in the West, but February 23rd and March 8th in Russia have a wider meaning. Russian customs mean congratulating not just close relatives, but also colleagues, partners, service workers, and more. Read more...