In the past, the New Year celebration didn’t culminate on December 31st. In Russia, people used to celebrate the end of the previous year and the beginning of a new one for twelve days. This period was called Svyatki (Святки – holy days), and until the Gregorian calendar was accepted, its beginning was associated with the winter solstice. Afterwards, the first day of Svyatki was moved to January 7 – the Orthodox Christmas.

During Svyatki, people sang carols, did fortune-telling, organized processions, dressed like animals, etc. The whole concept may sound pretty confusing – on one hand, those are clearly pagan traditions, on the other hand, they are associated with Christian holidays… Yes, it’s not easy to make sense of it. Different beliefs and traditions intertwined in Russian folk culture so much that it’s hard to separate one from another sometimes.

But let’s move on to the more practical side of the question. The New Year’s night has passed, but the holidays continue – how should we act during them?

  • Today, on January 1st, especially in the first half of the day, you shouldn’t rush and fidget. Otherwise, you can get injured, according to folk belief (and common sense, to be honest).

  • Also, don’t raise your voice and argue, especially with your close ones, to ensure you don’t fight a lot throughout the year. 

  • During Svyatki, you shouldn’t get married (only wolves do that, they say) and hunt (this is the time when all kinds of creatures are up and about, so it’s too dangerous). 

  • Keep in mind that dreams you’ll have on Christmas Eve tend to come true. 

  • During the week that comes after Christmas, you aren’t supposed to sweep the floors. On January 14, however, everything should be cleaned out and trash that accumulated during this time should be taken out (preferably, burned, but let’s not do that in the city). 

The key tip for spending the winter holidays, however, can be summed up by a phrase often used in Russian – you’ll spend the new year the way you’ll greet it (как новый год встретишь, так его и проведешь). So, no matter how you spent the New Year’s night, we hope you were happy about it. If not, however, worry not – you have the whole week of holidays ahead of you. The way you spend them should count, too.