Survival is key
The first and most pressing issue for many recent arrivals to St. Petersburg is that their winter clothes just don’t do the trick against the city’s harsh chill. Luckily for them, our Australian staff member Maryam has spent seven winters accumulating knowledge that she shared in this handy article. In it, you’ll find all the essentials – from sock-related life hacks to choosing the right jacket.
We’ve also queried our international students for their best tips on coping with winter – here’s what they had to say.
Feeling warmer already? Good! Now we can move on to the cultural importance of winter. This season holds a special place in the minds of all Russians, so knowing a few of our cultural quirks will go a long way towards breaking the ice (no pun intended). For instance, if you don’t want to miss any references at the New Year’s table, make sure to watch some of our favorite winter-themed movies as well as the all-time holiday classics.
Practicing your Russian? You’ll love these five quirky words that’ll help you describe the cold.
Oh, and that grandpa in the red coat? He’s no Santa Claus – and he has no elves, either. His name is Grandfather Frost and his companion is his granddaughter Snegurochka. Read all about them here. And for more historical curiosities, check out our dive into the Slavic tradition of winter caroling. And speaking of holidays…
The first thing you’ve got to know about Russian winter holidays is that we’ve got a lot of them. Owing to a few historical quirks, as well as the diversity of cultures that inhabit the country, the winter months are filled with happy occasions. Many of them can be experienced in St. Petersburg – even if you’re from a different culture, people will be more than glad to include you in the celebrations! First up comes Hanukkah in mid-December; then, there’s Catholic Christmas on December 25; then Orthodox Christmas on January 7; and, last but not least, Chinese New Year in January or February. These are, of course, far from all the options; we’ve covered several other lesser-known, but no less fascinating holidays here.
But no matter which culture or religion you belong to, one thing is true: it’s a time for gifts! If you’re looking for cool things to bring (or mail) home from Russia, you’ll need our list of best gifts from Russia. And as for gifts for your local friends, why not try making them with your own hands?
A holiday for the stomach
The winter season is also the perfect time to treat your inner glutton – in moderation, of course. If you find yourself at a Russian holiday table, prepare yourself with our guide to all the delicious holiday staples. Staying meat-free? No worries: Russian cuisine is very vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. In fact, here’s a list of holiday foods even vegans can enjoy.
And if you’re feeling cold outside and need to warm up, shake up your coffee-and-tea routine with these fun hot drinks for the snowy day.
Beating the blues
But even the holidays sometimes can’t help against the winter’s effect on mental health. It’s an all-too-familiar mix of low temperatures, lack of sunlight, and occasional vitamin deficiency. If you’re feeling down, check out:
Our overview of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the ways to deal with it;
The best mood-boosting strategies for the winter season;
And a comprehensive digest of the ways to stay fit, sane, and entertained at home.
You’ll note that one of the most common techniques against winter blues is to remember the importance of physical activity. And that brings us to…
Don’t let the impression fool you – the Russian winter is, in fact, the perfect time to be outside and on the move. Don’t know where to start? Begin with this list of basic activities for a good mood. Then, read about the many ice rinks of St. Petersburg. And finally, if you’ve got the spirit of an adventurer, you’ll love this guide to action sports in and around the city.
We hope you use these tips to have the most wonderful winter! For more insights, check out the 5 best video games to play over the holidays, a guide to Russian New Year's decorations, and learn about winter from a scientific perspective