Celebrating New Year’s in Russia: St Petersburg

Celebrating New Year’s in Russia: St Petersburg

The Director of MIR’s St. Petersburg affiliate office, Katya Boyarskaya, is a native of St. Petersburg, a city that – along with the entire country – loves to celebrate New Year’s. Katya does, too. We asked her to share some of her favorite holiday memories and tips.

ResolutionsWe don’t really have specific New Year’s resolutions like you do in the United States – lose a certain number of pounds, etc. We have more general resolutions like just to “start a new life.” I think that’s a good way to start the year, don’t you?

Get OutIf you’re in St. Petersburg on New Year’s Eve, I highly recommend getting outside and walking along Nevsky Prospekt, Palace Square, or the Neva River embankments. It’s so beautiful at night, nicely lit. I love it when the brown granite columns that decorate facades – like on St. Isaac’s – get that special hoarfrost coating, turning the columns snow-white. People are so kind and nice to each otheroffering champagne to strangers and making toasts. I actually like drinking cold champagne on a cold street, and then eating a cold tangerine after that.

The monument to Nicholas 1 and St. Isaac's dusted with winter snow Photo credit: Hotel Astoria

The monument to Nicholas 1 and St. Isaac’s dusted with winter snow
Photo credit: Hotel Astoria

I just love to walk along the streets on the morning of January 1st. St. Petersburg is DEAD! There are no people, no cars until at least 5 p.m. Not a.m., but 5 p.m.! Everything is closed, silent. It’s such a contrast to December 31st, when it’s impossible not only to drive, but even to walk!

Eat, Drink, DanceMy favorite foods to fix for New Year’s? Olivier salad – it has to be on the table, not just in my house but in every Russian house. Appropriately, it’s called “Russian salad” in the West; it tastes great the next morning, too.

If you love the ‘70s, you’ll love the music on New Year’s Eve. There’s tons of music on TV, and in my house we prefer something from Soviet times, like the 1970s and a bit of the 1980s. (Yes, we have lots of great memories from those times.) Sometimes we dance, if a place is big enough. There’s nothing special we do, just kind of jump and wiggle around. 🙂

If there are kids in the family – and even if there aren’t – typically one of the family members dresses up as Father Frost and congratulates everybody. Professional actors can do this, too, and you can book one for your party. Kids have to recite a poem, or sing a song in order to get a gift from Father Frost. Often Father Frost comes with his granddaughter, Snow Maiden.

When it comes to midnight toasting, there’s nothing like old-fashioned Soviet champagne! For breakfast New Year’s Day, I like to start with cold champagne and leftover Olivier salad. Great combo!

Catherine's Palace at holiday time

Catherine’s Palace at holiday time

Seeing OrangeYou may see tangerines everywhere at New Year’s. In Soviet days fruit was brought out for sale, often the only time in a year, with oranges most prized. Today tangerines are more typical. To me and to Russians, the smell of tangerines is the smell of New Year’s.

Go to the TheaterAnother tip is to do what my friends do and go to the theater on New Year’s Eve. In their case, there’s a certain play – a love story by Englishman Noel Coward, “Интимная жизнь” [“Private Lives”] – that’s traditionally staged on New Year’s Eve in one of the St. Petersburg theaters. They‘ve gone to that same show for 10 years. Why? They don’t want to risk seeing anything new for fear it won’t be very good. This play guarantees they’ll be in a good mood for New Year’s celebrating!

St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater

Celebrate New Year’s by going to the theater

Cook EarlyThis tip isn’t just because my parents are famous actors and I’m used to being in the theater. I suggest heading to the theater because it not only puts you in a good mood, but you’re also not spending the entire evening cooking. I have friends who do this, getting home around 11. They put out the foods they cooked earlier, and sit down to eat and celebrate.

Last TipFather Frost. No need to put out milk, cookies, or even Coca-Cola (an American tradition, yes?), hoping to entice Santa Claus to stay a while as he delivers gifts. Our Father Frost will show up for everyone, as we Russians celebrate the happiest, most festive time of the year, New Year’s. Now, to all a good night and “С Новым годом!” –  Happy New Year!

Travel to Russia for the Holidays with MIR

Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up dancing to ‘70s music on New Year’s Eve in a Russian home on MIR’s scheduled tours to Russia, including:

MIR has 30 years of travel experience to 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.”

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Wondering which destination or itinerary is right for you? In addition to browsing the pages of our free catalog, you can narrow down your choices online using our Trip Finder and the Destination Map. Or chat with our Private Journeys department to have a trip handcrafted to your interests, pace and budget.

Contact MIR today at info@mircorp.com or 1-800-424-7289.


(Top photo credit: Katya Boyarskaya)

PUBLISHED: December 11, 2014

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2 thoughts on “Celebrating New Year’s in Russia: St Petersburg

  • Moonyeen Albrecht

    Just a note to add to Katya’s suggestions . . . because I’ve done this! On New Year’s Day, when the streets are DEAD and nobody is around, that is the perfect time to take a tour of the St. Petersburg Metro Stations. No crowds! Nobody! Keep your camera handy. The Red Line has the most beautiful. Spend the afternoon in the Metro for the cost of just one zheton!
    (1) Ploschad Vosstania-
    (2) Avtovo-
    (3) Kirovsky Zavod-
    (4) Narvskaya-
    (5) Baltiyskaya-
    (6) Tekhnologichesky Institut (In the direction of Prospekt veteranov)-
    Also Pushkinskaya