Culture Café: New Year

The biggest and by far the most beloved holiday in Russia is the New Year. The smell of tangerines in the air. Everybody is waiting for the clock to strike midnight, chatting while Russian celebrities dance and joke on TV in the background. It’s the last Culture Café of the semester; ESN HSE Moscow decided to recreate typical Russian New Year’s Eve step by step, organizing grand rehearsal one week before the actual holiday.

Before celebration can begin, you must prepare for it. In Russia it means cutting salads from the early morning. There can’t be any empty spots on the table – all available surface has to be covered by food. When the guests arrived (usually, your close family and friends), everybody sits down at the table which is usually served with Olivier salad, sandwiches with red caviar and sprats, herring salad, and, of course, champagne.

According to the tradition, at midnight you need to write your wish for the upcoming year on a piece of paper, burn it, put the ashes inside of your champagne glass and drink it. And all of that during the chimes of the Spasskaya Tower’s clock! We couldn't recreate that fascinating moment at our event, but we could recreate another one – the making of Olivier salad! Under supervision (but without help) of our volunteers, our guests ended up making so much of it, so it could hardly be consumed in the span of one evening. Much like on an actual New Year’s celebration. There are always some leftovers in the morning, sometimes the morning after too.

No New Year in Russia can be spent without watching old Soviet movies on TV. Carnival Night, Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future, and Irony of Fate are the three most watched movies. Starting from 1991, these films have been on TV’s program on the 31th of December for more than 25 times each. Many Russian quotes the films regularly and, of course, know every song by heart. The other constant on the silver screen is The Little Blue Light song show. Every year since 1961, Russian stars gather together to participate in the variety of performances and wish a happy new year to every person watching the show at home.

The celebration, especially the one where children are present, cannot exist without an appearance of Ded Moroz (the Father of Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurochka. They always come to light up the lights on a Christmas tree, dance around it with children, and give them the presents they’ve been asking for. And if a child can perform a poem, Ded Moroz gives him or her a little extra present, usually a sweet one.

And just like that, complete with Olivier salad, Soviet movies, Ded Moroz’s surprise visit, and the president’s New Year address, our Culture Café has closed the page on this semester’s events. But there are more exciting things to learn coming next semester. And if you ever find yourselves in Russia during New Year, you now know how to not stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd.  
Text: Evgenia Senkina