Russian New Year vs British Christmas

It might seem odd to compare New Year holiday to Christmas, but Christmas in Russia is more of a quiet religious holiday while New Year is celebrated in a similar way Catholics celebrate Christmas. Both holidays imply decorating a spruce, giving and receiving presents, eating a feast with a family and other festive activities. Having said that, there are also a number of rather curious differences – let’s have a look at those!


Yes, the biggest difference is that the festive season in UK ends on 1st of  January, while in Russia it only begins! In UK it is the last week of December when everyone is off work, in Russia – first week of January. Furthermore, in UK the biggest celebrations take place on Christmas Day (25.12), whilst in Russia it is all about staying up all night (31.12-01.01) and celebrating.

Santa Claus vs Ded Moroz (Дед Мороз)

Unlike in Catholic world, it is not Santa Claus who is responsible for presents in Russian homes, but Ded Moroz. Ded Moroz is a fictional character (or is he?) who wears a very long blue or red coat and valenki (валенки) on his feet. He is also accompanied by Snegurochka (Снегурочка) – his granddaughter and helper, not Rudolf. Traditionally, he does not place sweets or in stockings above the fireplace. Adding to all above, his residence is not a North Pole, but Veliky Ustyug in Vologda Oblast, Russia. There is an official address you can write him too!

Carols vs Новогодняя Елка

Singing Christmas carols is not something Russians would do for New Year. Neither are there any Santa’s Grottos. Instead, they attend New Year’s performances (Новогодняя Елка) with their children, ballet (it is season for the Nutcracker!) and other events related to the beloved holiday.

Christmas tree or New Year tree

In Russia people decorate their Christmas trees for New Year rather than Christmas. Hence, they call them New Year trees (новогодние елки). In both countries presents are placed under the tree. Yet, Brits prefer opening their presents in the morning of the Christmas day. In Russia, any time after midnight is fine.

Turkey vs Оливье

Unlike Brits, Russians do not cook turkey for their festive meal. Neither is there any cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts or mince pies in sight. Instead, there are Russian salads such as Olivier (оливье), Herring under fur coat (селедка под шубой), vinegret (винегрет), pickled vegetables… You will also be surprised to know that tangerines are the real staple of the holiday! Russians would eat their big meal late on New Year’s eve, then celebrate the midnight with a glass of champagne. Brits, on the other hand  have their biggest meal on Christmas day – Christmas lunch.

Christmas jumper vs dress to impress

New Year’s Eve in Russia is not reason to wear Christmas jumpers and pijamas (unless it is a quiet home gathering, of course) – it is the night to look fabulous. Women put on their best dresses and men try to make an effort too.

What do you think of the New Year celebrations in Russia?

Team EBC