From Russia with love: 8 reasons you should celebrate the New Year in Russia

written by Intrepid Travel November 24, 2016

If you’re anything like us, you leave your New Year’s Eve plans ‘til the last minute and subject yourself to a frenzy of pre-celebratory anxiety. Where should you go? What should you wear? What’s a realistic amount of resolutions to set for yourself this year? Should you call your mother at 00:00? What inspiring Facebook status should you prepare for 00:05?

In an attempt to prevent any of the above issues from weaseling their way in to your NYE plans, we’ve come up with a solution. That solution, oh Intrepid friends, is that we think you should spend New Year in Russia. That’s right, Russia. And here’s why:

1. You’ll be the talk of the town (dependent on size of town)

Russia new year guide - SONY DSC

Suzdal is a dream | Image c/o Loris Silvio

We can almost guarantee that none of your friends will be spending their New Year in Russia (apart from the friends you may choose to travel with). But far from being a negative, this friendless soujourn will bode well for you in the long run: not only do you get to set off on a completely novel adventure – you’ll also return home to a hero’s welcome.

After all, you turned down the usual dinner-drinks-dance-drinks NYE combo in favour of drinking vodka and partaking in a traditional Russian feast with the locals in ancient Suzdal – part of Russia’s legendary Golden Ring. You adventure fiend, you.

2. Russians go absolutely bonkers for New Years

Russia new year guide - kishjar?

See? Bonkers. | Image c/o kishjar?, Flickr

New Year is pretty much every Russian’s favourite holiday, which means that as a guest in their illustrious land, the locals will attempt to make it your favourite holiday too. It’s the biggest festival time of the year, meaning all the cities and towns will be covered in impressive light ornamentation. It’s also theatre season – which means you could watch The Nutcracker every night if you wanted to. And – get this – because they changed from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, they have two New Year’s celebrations – one on January 1, and another on January 14. Cheeky rascals.

3. You’ll get to visit the home of Russian Santa

Russia new year guide - Russian winter in the her magnificence.

Not picture: the home of Russian Santa | Image c/o Jean Makarov, Flickr

Veliky Ustyug is the home of Ded Moroz (‘Father Frost’) – Russia’s equivalent to Santa Claus. This place is like a real-life fairytale: old wooden houses covered in snow, myths and legends flickering through the air – you can basically hear the Disney theme tune as you wonder around. You’ll even get a tour of Ded Moroz’ residence, which is something all your friends back home are sure to be Ded Jealous of.

4. Overnight trains in Russia > the last train home from your friend’s NYE party

Russia new year guide - Blende57

This is actually a photo of a German train, not a Russian one. It’s surprisingly hard to find photos of Russian trains. | Image c/o Blende57, Flickr

Instead of trying to hail a cab, catch a bus, or navigate your home city’s hellish public transport system on New Year’s Eve, you can kick back on an overnight train in Russia. The key difference being that it’s much more socially acceptable to drink vodka on trains with strangers in Russia than it is back home (if you make sure you drink aforementioned vodka in your own compartment with the door closed, that is). And when you get to where you’re going (St. Petersburg), you’ll get to have a tea party and pancakes with a local family. Fantastic.

5. You’ll be one of the first people to see the Russian landmarks in the New Year

Russia new year guide - Bernt Rostad

St Basil’s looks like a fairytale. A big, brick fairytale. | Image c/o Bernt Rostad, Flickr

Moscow’s Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basils Cathedral, Old Church Slavonic – you’ll be one of the first travellers of the year to see all these incredible Russian icons. Which means if any of your other friends happen to visit Russia in the New Year, you can rest easy knowing you saw it first. But don’t gloat about it. Be cool.

6. Get pampered, Russian style (may involve being hit with sticks)

Russia new year guide - LandRoverMENA

This is actually a thing that happens. | Image c/o LandRoverMENA, Flickr

Have you ever heard of a banya? It’s essentially a traditional Russian steam bath in which temperatures reach around 93 degrees celcius. During your banya experience, you’ll likely be beaten with an array of twigs and branches from white birch, oak and eucalyptus trees. Health benefits include: improved circulation, healthier organs, cell growth, the expulsion of metabolic waste and being really hot. Good.

7. Go full Orthodox (and enjoy Christmas twice)

Russia new year guide - JasonEppink

The Church of the Savior on Blood is perhaps the most intensely-named church we’ve ever come across. Looks awesome too. | Image c/o Jason Eppink, Flickr

Just like you were thinking you’ll only have one New Years this year, you’re probably thinking that you’ll only have one Christmas this year too. And if you don’t go to Russia for New Year, you’re probably right (unless you know something we don’t). But if you do go to Russia for New Year, you’ll get to have Christmas twice. That’s right, not once, not once-and-a-half, but twice. Russian’s celebrate their Orthodox Christmas on January 7th, you see, which means you pretty much have a whole two weeks to get over the first Christmas and get into the second. You’ll also get to ring in Russian Christmas at church in St Petersburg, which is pretty epic.

8. Get a head start on all those New Year’s resolutions

Russia new year guide - ludavick

Here comes the boom. | Image c/o ludavick, Flickr

If your list of resolutions includes things like: “visit the Kremlin”, “eat ice cream in minus temperatures”, “have an awesome adventure”, “carpe diem”, “drink vodka with locals in Russia”, “get an overnight train in Russia”, “have Christmas twice”, “visit Santa’s home” or just, y’know, “visit Russia”, then spending New Year in Russia will leave you with a massive chunk of that list ticked off.

So, not only will you have had a New Year’s adventure you’ll never forget, you’ll also have a head start on your goals for next year. You absolute legend.

Feature image c/o Alex Naanou

See Russia the local way, on an Intrepid small group adventure.


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