Russia: Holidays                                                     

Winter Festival (December 25-January 5)

  • The Winter Festival is a festival of arts and a time of holiday partying held, for the most part, in Moscow and somewhat less grandly in other cities of the former Soviet Union. In Moscow, there are circuses, performances of Russian fables for children and other special theatrical presentations. There are traditional outdoor parties with troika (sleigh) rides, folk games and dancing around fir trees.

New Year's Eve (December 31)

  • On New Year's Eve, children wait for gifts from "Father Frost" (photo) (or "Grandfather Frost"), who wears a red robe and black boots and has a white beard. He is aided by the "Snow Maiden" who is his granddaughter.
  • In the past, Father Frost was associated with Christmas, but religious holidays were stamped out after the 1917 Revolution. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992 signaled the revival of many of the traditions which were suppressed under Soviet leadership. Father Frost may again become a traditional Christmas figure.
  • New Year Eve's is literally celebrated all night. First you eat a big dinner before midnight and then another after midnight. This symbolizes eating "to the old year" and then eating "to the new year." New Year's is celebrated in family homes but people also go out for walks late at night.

Christmas (January 7)

  • The Orthodox Christmas is not celebrated on December 25th but on January 7th.

International Woman's Day (March 8)

  • On this day, women are given gifts and have a work holiday.

White Nights (June 21-29)


  • White Nights is the time of year in St. Petersburg when the nights are so short that the sky appears white, or light grey and twilight lasts only thirty or forty minutes. The city, with its many buildings painted in pastel shades of lavender, green, pink and yellow, has a particularly beautiful charm during the "white" nights.

  • The time is celebrated with a fine-arts festival that focuses on ballet and folk dancing but also includes opera and musical theater. During this period, the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre present its top productions of classical and Soviet ballets. Traditionally there are also performances by students of St. Petersburg's famous Vaganova School of Choreography. Concerts are given by the Symphony Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic. About 250,000 people attend each year.