National holidays and festivals in Russia
Russians love to celebrate, and Russia's
public holidays should not be treated lightly.
For the most important holidays - New Year's, Christmas, and the
May holidays - many shops close down completely and city streets
become strangely quiet. All government offices are closed on public
holidays, and most overseas embassies are too.
Sometimes it can be a little complicated figuring out which days
the country shuts down.
If the holiday falls on a Monday or a Friday, then everything is
simple - it's a day off. If it falls on a weekend, then the Friday
or Monday will also be a day off.
If it falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday then the weekend will be
shifted a day in the right direction and the Saturday or Sunday
becomes a working day, with the three days off being Sunday-Monday-Tuesday
If the holiday falls on a Wednesday then there is no long weekend.
The Gift Tradition in Russia
What is Given on Russian Holidays
The gift tradition in Russia is very strong. It highlights a culture
that is based on communal values, where society, friends and family
are very important, and where one’s individual interests do not
necessarily come first. As Russians like to say: “One is not a soldier
on the battlefield.” In Russia, family is not simply the nuclear
family of parents and children, but a much larger network of relatives.
Family members all gather together for every holiday or important
occasion. This is especially true of New Year’s.
In Russia, whenever someone travels
overseas, family, friends and sometimes even co-workers expect that
person to bring back presents. This likely stems from the Soviet
era, when very few people had the wherewithal and freedom to travel
outside the USSR. Thus, whenever someone went abroad, friends and
acquaintances expected to hear stories of travel and to receive
small presents and the story behind them.
There are many souvenirs and gifts that a traveler to Russia can
bring back for friends or family at home. These include folk crafts
ranging from small matryoshka dolls (available in a wide range of
sizes and varieties, including with the faces of the Soviet General
Secretaries and Russian Presidents) to more upscale items like Gzhel,
Khokhloma, Faberge egg replicas, brooches, lacquer boxes, enameled
jewelry, shawls and porcelain. High quality vodka or wine is also
considered to be an appropriate gift in Russia.
Most holidays are celebrated at home;
it is not customary to go to restaurants. Everyone gathers around
the dining table, filled to overflowing with traditional dishes
and deserts prepared by the women in attendance. The meal typically
stretches throughout the evening and is peppered with toasts, jokes
and anecdotes, sometimes a combination of all three! Some traditional
dishes you would expect to find on the table include vinaigrette
salad, Salad Olivier, fish aspic, kulebyaka, golubtsy and pelmeni.
After the meal, there may be dancing (especially at weddings or
New Year’s) or going out into the city or for a picnic (in the case
of Victory Day or International Women’s Day). On some holidays,
many people like to visit museums and theaters.
The tradition of giving flowers as a gift is very widespread. Flowers
can be given on any occasion (or even without any occasion) to a
mother, wife, girlfriend, coworker or friend. From earliest childhood,
Russian boys are taught the importance of giving flowers.