New Year’s Day in Russia is a unique experience. While each nation may have its own special traditions, for this American, the Russian way is simply astounding.
From the Communist times, the relevance of Nativity (Christmas) celebrations has never been what it became in the West. The suppression of Christianity in Soviet Russia was probably a hidden blessing for the Church now, which stands rather purified of commercialist tendencies. The season of gift-giving falls seven days earlier on January first, and it is greeted by a national break from work, which this year covers ten full days, (December 30-January 8, inclusive)I It is greeted by great entertainment, and festivities and fireworks inundate the night skies, which roar through not only the wee hours of January 1, but all night and all night for several nights afterward, too.
Perhaps the most significant feature of the New Year’s celebration is how, at five minutes before midnight, all the festivities pause, and the President comes on TV to greet the nation. This pause sets things in proper order, transforming the holiday from just a free-for-all to an expression of gratitude.
President Vladimir V Putin greeted his nation with a brief talk congratulating everyone on the new year, along with some words of support:
For us, New Year’s Eve is, first and foremost, a family holiday. We celebrate it just like we did during our childhood: with presents and surprises, with special warmth, with expectations of important changes. And they will come into our lives if each and every one of us will remember our parents and care for them, treasure every minute spent together with them; if we will learn to better understand our children, their dreams and aspirations; if we support those close to us, those in need of our involvement and heartfelt generosity.
The ability to help, to be thoughtful and to do good, fills life with a true, human purpose… Our solidarity, friendship and unconditional love of Russia multiply our strength, giving us power to perform worthy deeds and great achievements.
The speech was, and always is, short. Then, the clock strikes midnight, and the full Russian National Anthem plays.
And then the celebrations truly begin.
Happy New Year from the Russian Federation. May peace and all blessings accompany all us, in Russia and beyond.