Party Like a Russian

'tis the season! If you’re invited to a holiday party by your Russian friends (or there's one spontaneously happening at your dorm), don’t panic. Here’s how to come out alive and love every minute.

Photo credit: riavrn.ru

There will be food. In most likelihood, it’s not an affair where you’ll be standing around holding a glass of champagne, making eyes at pin-sized snacks. With hospitality being part of national identity here, it will be an event where food (and drinks) will be plentiful. People you know and don’t know might be adding more food to your plate, arguing that you look skinny, or that you have to try something, or that it’s a tradition. Protesting is futile – but you don’t have to clear your plate. 

There will be toasts. You might think that Russians don’t need an excuse to drink, but they like to think that they do, therefore every clinking of glass and every shot (or the majority of them) will have its own toast. They can range from “to your health” to “to the beautiful women” to “to those at sea” to whatever the collective imagination produces. You might be asked to come up with one as well – short and sweet always wins. 

It will be a while. If you think you’ll just drop by for an hour, think again. If it’s a dinner, there’s a good chance that the spread you’re seeing when you first sit down is just the starters, so go easy on the “herring-under-fur coat”. There still might be the main course coming. And dessert for sure. 

Speaking of desserts, you can always bring something sweet “for tea”. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate cake – something non-committal and somewhat inexpensive, like cookies, will do just fine.

As things finally start to wind down, your hosts might be offering a на посошок – literally “a toast to a walking stick”. Now, of course, it would be more appropriate to offer one for your rideshare.

Contrary to popular belief, a Russian party is far from alcohol flowing out of samovars (in most cases). In fact, you might find that a healthy lifestyle is becoming very popular here, and a party is a gathering of friends that sit around for three hours, eat and chat. In any case, being a responsible adult is a good strategy at any party. 

Need to get into the holiday spirit? Check out the St. Petersburg winter fairs and score a perfect gift for others, or yourself.

Archive by year: