Russian holidays and festivals

Having the time of your life in Russia

Russian holidays and festivals

What would you think of if I said, “Name one Russian festival”? Most people will think about the big military parade in Moscow, but Russia offers many more beautiful festivals and events!

Christmas (Рождество)

Do you want to celebrate Christmas in January? Or maybe you love Christmas so much that you wish you could celebrate it twice a year? It may sound ridiculous but it is not as impossible as it seems.

In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th January. This is due to the fact that when the Soviet government changed to the Gregorian calendar, the Russian Orthodox Church did not, they kept the Julian calendar for religious celebration days.

New year (Новый Год)

The official Christmas and New Year holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th. Even better, having two calendars also means that they celebrate New Years Eve twice a year!

  • The first one is the on the 31st December, with lots of fireworks and the typical parties.
  • The second one is called Old New Year (Старый Новый год), on the 14th January, which is a much quieter one (for those who follow the Julian calendar).

During the end of December until the beginning of January, most parts of Russia tend to have a winter festival as well, so don’t forget to bring your gloves!


Moving on to something completely different: pancake week. Russians love to celebrate Maslenitsa. It is a festival which celebrates the end of the cold, harsh winters which are present throughout Russia.

The pancake symbolises the sun. Nowadays, Maslyanitsa is celebrated at the end of February. People wear costumes, sing songs and dance a lot. Whenever possible, hot tea and pancakes will be served outside.

Easter (Пасха)

Easter is also a very important holiday to many Russians. For those who are members of the Russian Orthodox church it is a time of joy, hope and inspiration. Easter will be celebrated during April or May. During this period you will typically hear the following greetings:

  • Христос воскрес! Which you pronounce as khristos voskres (Christ is risen)

You should respond with:

  • Воистину воскрес! Which you pronounce as voIstinu voskres (Indeed he is risen)

At midnight priests and locals walk around the streets saying these greetings.

Cities and their birthdays

If you are in St Petersburg on the 27th May you are in for a great day, it’s the city’s birthday! In the morning, there will be the traditional laying of flowers at the well known “Peter the Great” monument. After that, and maybe more exciting, the palace square will offer music, street performances and many more things to see. The day ends with fireworks.

Spend the 3rd September in Moscow if you can. It’s the city day of Moscow and you will see a lot of festivities, street parties and free concerts.

International Workers’ Solidarity Day (День международной солидарности трудящихся)

On the 1st May, Russians celebrate Spring and Labour day (also known as International Workers Day). This used to be a big day filled with parades, yet is is now used as a day of relaxation for most. However, some people protest or participate in demonstrations (usually politically motivated ones).   

Victory Day (День Победы)

Probably the most well known festival is Victory Day (May 9). It is a day to remember those who died during the Second World War. The parade in the Red Square (Moscow) is the most well known part of Victory day.

Independance Day (День России)

On the 12th June, Russia celebrates its Independence Day (also known as Russia day). On this day, Russia declared sovereignty from the Soviet Union. It is also a day where people honour those who have played a big role in the history of the country itself.

Unity Day (День народного единства)

Last but not least, Unity Day is celebrated on the 4th November. It stands for tolerance in Russia. Unfortunately on this day ultranationalists can be found demonstrating on the streets. Not everybody agrees with this holiday, it replaced Revolution day (7th November) in 2005.

Hopefully these holidays will make your stay in Russia even better!

Further reading

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