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New Year's Day


The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.
In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the new year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the new year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year's Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.

During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.


Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.
The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California.

Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports centerpiece of the festival.

The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.

Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the new year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus.

The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the new year was brought to early America by the Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century.

Russian New Year
In the Soviet Union Santa is replaced with Grandfather Frost. He looks much like Santa Claus but arrives on New Year's Eve with his bag of toys. He wears blue instead of red. Father Frost can punish any evil doer by freezing them. Often kids dance around the tree, tell rhymes to Father Frost then receive their presents.
They have large decorated trees in the centers of the major cities. The most formal New Year's celebration is party held at the Kremlin. As many as 50,000 attendance tickets are sold in the weeks before the annual event.

The Russian meal on New Year's is primarily meat and potato dishes.

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.
Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.

At 1452 Great Prince of Moscow Joann (John) declared the date of clerical and civil New Year at 1 of September. This day was the day of paying different taxes, rents and tributes. A day before the New Year tsar usually visited the Moscow Kremlin where everybody, both nobles and peasants could ask him for judgment and mercy. At September New Year the church ceremony took place, which was taken from Byzantium and started by Constantine the Great. The head of Russian Orthodox Church and 400 clerics went out to the Kremlin Square and wished health to the tsar and his family as well as to the nobles, troops and all orthodox Christians. More than 20000 people in confirmation of this New Year wishes loudly shouted: "Amen!"

The last time of this way New Year celebration was 1 of September 1698. At this day tsar Peter the Great greeted people with New Year by himself. At first year of 18 century Peter ordered to introduce the time scale from Birth of Christ instead of the time scale from the beginning of the world. He declared this custom for "better agreements in contracts and treatises." He took this custom from Holland and other countries of Western Europe where he studied.

This reform by Peter the Great began in a special manner: 1699 it was forbidden to celebrate somehow September 1. And December 15 under drum-type fight on the Red Square in Moscow to the people they have read the decree about counting of years from Birth of Christ since January 1. 7208 year has turned to 1700. To the people they declared after church ceremony to make on streets and at houses the arrange ornaments with pine and fur-tree branches. They declared also to congratulate each other on 1 of January and wish each other the happy New Year. On the Red Square the shooting and fiery funs was carried out, they let out rockets. On the large streets from January 1 till January 7 on night they ordered to light fires.

Now New Year is a family holiday. In many families children and the adults are going in the evening of a house near by fur tree decorated by special glass toys and wait for midnight. That moment the radio translates the sound of the Moscow main clock - chiming clock on Spasskaya tower of Kremlin and congratulation of the president to the people. The people fill glasses with champagne vine and wish each other all the best. The New year goes over the territory of Russia by10 hours from Far East up to Kaliningrad.

From January 1 till January 10 there are winter vacations at school. At this time for children the public holidays, so-called "fur-trees" are arranged. On these holidays to children come the Grandfather a Frost, Snow girl, Snowman and other characters.

The Grandfather Frost has replace in Russia the European Saint Nicolas. It is the high old man with a long white beard in a red fur coat, special mittens, felt boots, with magic staff and bag of gifts for children. He rides not by deer’s, but on daring Russian sledge with 3 horses and with little bell under an arch. His usual place of stay is winter snow wood, where he organizes blizzards and snow fallings.

His charming granddaughter Snow girl is a character, which in Europe is not present. She is dressed in light-blue fur coat with white ermine fur, white boots. From under round fur hat is lowered fair-haired braid below than belt. She is a mistress for birds and animals of a winter wood: hares, squirrels, and bullfinches.

Usually malicious Baba Yaga and Forest man steals bag with gifts and presents. The malicious wolf and artful fox help them. The Snowman is comic person. Snow girl speaks: « Children, let's help the Grandfather Frost to find a bag with presents! » Before to distribute children the found gifts, Grandfather Frost lights fires on fur tree with the magic stuff. Then Grandfather Frost drives a round dance around fur tree together with the children and other characters of a holiday. This mystery is played already more than 100 years for children by age from 2-3 years till 15-16.

The senior youth simply suits parties. But on these parties somebody is necessary dress up by the Grandfather Frost and Snow girl. There is also distribution of gifts. And after a midnight the cheerful company leaves on a street, covered by snow, and starts up in the star sky multi-colored rockets and fireworks, plays snowballs.

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