Two Unforgettable Ways to Celebrate New Year’s in St. Petersburg, Russia

Two Unforgettable Ways to Celebrate New Year’s in St. Petersburg, Russia

New Year’s Eve is always something to look forward to: it’s a chance to stay up past midnight, to spend the evening in convivial cheer with family and friends, to feel that collective sense of anticipation as you count down the last few seconds of the year. Letting loose and reveling in a bit of free-spirited fun is what makes the holidays feel so special — and it’s something that we often lose sight of during a typically stressful season.

This year, why not reignite some of that celebratory magic and bid farewell to 2017 on MIR’s festive small group tour Russian Winter Wonderland? Revolving around New Year’s in glorious St. Petersburg, the tour also includes visits to Moscow and the ancient medieval capitals of Russia’s Golden Ring.

Russia is at its most enchanting during the winter — magnificent palaces, churches, and city streets are illuminated by holiday lights and look regal under a blanket of freshly fallen snow. And nobody loves New Year’s Eve more than the Russians do: with plenty of parties, presents, and champagne toasts, it’s the moment everyone’s waited for all year long — and you’re invited to share in the fun.

Discover Russia’s warm hospitality and cherished holiday traditions at either a low-key New Year’s Eve party in a private St. Petersburg home, or an all-out opulent affair at the Czar’s Ball at Catherine’s Palace. Whichever option you choose is sure to make for an unforgettable evening.

How will you choose to spend your New Year’s Eve?

Freewheeling Festivity in a Russian Home
Preparing a "simple" meal of Russian piroshky, or filled mini-pies, garlic, pickles, black bread and more Photo credit: Liz Tollefson

Preparing a “simple” meal of Russian piroshky, or filled mini-pies, garlic, pickles, black bread and more
Photo credit: Liz Tollefson

Celebrate the New Year in true Russian style with dinner and merrymaking in the company of Russian hosts, experiencing the overflowing hospitality of the Russians. New Year’s Eve reigns supreme in Russia, since Christmas was banned throughout the country during the Soviet era. Unwilling to let go of old customs, the Russian people creatively revamped many Christmas traditions for New Year’s Eve.

At a typical party, families might spend time decorating the Novogodnaya yolka, the “New Year’s tree,” decked with all the ornaments and trimmings of a typical Christmas tree. Taking the place of Santa Claus is Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, who often stops by to deliver gifts and good wishes for the coming year. Sometimes his granddaughter, Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, will accompany him on his visit.


Santa (or Father Frost as he’s known in Russia) comes to town during New Year’s Eve celebrations, often accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka
Photo credit: Hotel Snegurochka

Holiday meals are multi-course extravaganzas and might include pickled vegetables, herring, pelmeni (juicy bite-sized meat dumplings served with heaps of sour cream), stuffed cabbage or roast chicken, and of course Olivier salad,” a potato salad made with chicken or cured meat. Expect a multitude of toasts with champagne and sweets, good conversation, games, singing, and dancing.

When the clock strikes midnight, Russians head outside to watch a spectacular fireworks show light up the sky. Many will linger on the streets well into the wee hours of morning, offering champagne to strangers and making toasts, or visiting with friends and neighbors to wish them a happy new year.

Dining & Dancing With the Czars
Celebrate New Years at the Czar's Ball, St. Petersburg, Russia

Celebrate New Year’s Eve at the Czar’s Ball, St. Petersburg, Russia

Experience the height of Russian imperial grandeur as you spend your New Year’s Eve clinking champagne glasses and rubbing shoulders with St. Petersburg’s crème de la crème at the lavish Czar’s Ball. Set in luxurious Catherine’s Palace, this sumptuous event recreates the imperial soirees of the 19th century, when no expense was spared to dazzle and entertain the favored nobility.

Crowded with fragrant flowers, the parquet floors gleaming in the candlelight, Catherine’s gilded Throne Room awakens with this magnificent New Year’s celebration, as opera and ballet soloists entertain throughout. The celebratory feast is a splendid re-enactment of gatherings at the height of czarist opulence, complete with ice sculptures, fine French and Russian cuisine, champagne and caviar.

At midnight, guests gather at the Great Hall’s tiers of arched windows to watch the New Year’s fireworks bursting overhead, just as the czar and his privileged guests did long ago.

Classic Sights & Festive Nights
Pushkin Theater on a winter's eve in St. PetersburgPhoto credit: Jonathan Irish

Pushkin Theater on a winter’s eve in St. Petersburg
Photo credit: Jonathan Irish

On Russian Winter Wonderland, you’ll see all the essential sights of Western Russia’s classic cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as the ancient Golden Ring towns of Vladimir and Suzdal. Experience the beauty of a Russian winter, visit grand palaces, museums, and churches, and explore three UNESCO World Heritage Sites as you:

  • Appreciate the vast collection of art housed in the world-renowned Hermitage Museum.
  • Take in an opera or ballet at one of St. Petersburg’s prestigious theaters.
  • Explore Moscow’s rich culture from the Kremlin to Arbat Street, and from the Tretyakov Gallery to the Metro.
  • Go dashing through the snow on a traditional horse-drawn sleigh through charming Suzdal.


Celebrate the New Year with MIR
Dancers take their final bows at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Dancers take their final bows at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia
Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

MIR has over 30 years of travel experience in Russia, with affiliate offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia offering on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in grand style on MIR’s annual small group tour Russian Winter Wonderland. Even better, you can combine this with MIR’s Christmas Traditions of Poland small group tour for an unexpected winter getaway full of holiday warmth and cheer.

You can also experience the spirit of a true Russian winter on any of these MIR small group tours and rail journeys by private train:

Or design your own winter wonderland journey with the help of a MIR Private Journeys Specialist. MIR has spent 30 dazzling winters handcrafting tours that make creative and unforgettable holiday gifts, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.

Contact MIR today at or 1-800-424-7289.

PUBLISHED: October 13, 2016

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