There are nine national holidays in Russia. If they happen to be on non-business days, Russians celebrate them before or after the actual date (i.e. on a business day).
Let’s take a look at the 9 major national holidays that are celebrated in Russia:
Russian National Holidays
1. New Year’s Eve (1 January)
Even though they switched to the Gregorian calendar, Russian are still using the Julian calendar. They are using the first one for civic life, while the Julian is left for religious purposes .
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are two New Years in Russia. They first celebrate a New Year on January 1st. Two weeks later, they gather to welcome the “Old” New Year on January 14th.
The first New Year is celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar and you figure out which calendar is used for celebrating the second one (it’s the Julian calendar, I just wanted to test your deductive reasoning).
What are they doing on the night of the New Year? Well, Russians do know how to celebrate and enjoy themselves. Usually, they will celebrate with a bottle of Vodka.
Russian cities are the perfect location for celebrating New Years’ while enjoying the wonderful scenery.
On the last day of December, Russian people sing the song “S Novim Godom” which in the Russian language means “With the New Year”.
According to statistics, an astonishing 96 percent of Russians celebrate the New Year.
2. Christmas (7 January)
After New Year’s Eve, all Russians have one week to recover and prepare themselves for the upcoming year. Christmas is celebrated on January 7th and is among the most celebrated Russian holidays.
All Orthodox Christians celebrate Orthodox Christmas in a similar fashion.
On the day of Christmas Eve, people in Russia eat Sachyelnik which in the Russian language stands for a meal made from grains.
They usually end their Nativity Fast on Christmas by eating Sachyelnik. Nativity Fast lasts for 40 days.
Christmas is the second most celebrated religious custom after Easter .
Read: Christmas in Croatia: Traditions & How to Celebrate
3. Defender of the Fatherland Day (23 February)
This date was previously celebrated as the Day of the Red Army, and the Soviet Army Day.
Since the Soviet time, military service was obligatory for all Russian men. Russians consider this holiday to be among their most important events.
There is even a tradition of celebrating this in kindergartens all around the country.
On Soviet army day, the wives usually spend their time figuring out what to give their husbands as a present. At the same time, the husbands make jokes about getting either a shaving gel or a new pair of socks.
Women at work tend to make parties for their male coworkers. They sometimes wear a Russian military uniform (which is a picture I can imagine easily and I can tell you right away that it’s a nice picture).
If you want to wish a happy holiday to a Russian fella, you better give him a strength-related compliment or tell him that you admire his pride. Russians like to hear something other than the usual may all your dreams come true.
4. International Women’s Day (8 March)
International women’s day is the day for all of the Russian flower shops to make their annual profit! There are tulips available for purchase on every corner.
There isn’t a nicer holiday than the one celebrated on March 8th.
The history of this public holiday is deeply connected to women’s rights. Back in 1917, in revolutionary Russia, women went out on demonstrations in St. Petersburg on this date. Four days later, tsar Nikolai II gave women the right to vote.
Even though this holiday has a strong feminist context, it’s celebrated in Russia in a more traditional way.
The feminine principle is acknowledged in Russia mainly through another holiday – The Mother’s Day. It is strange that Russians will celebrate their mothers more than women in general for an international women’s day but it is what it is.
5. Orthodox Easter
Easter is not a national holiday in Russia, but as we all know, it is always celebrated on a Sunday. This is probably the reason why this holiday is a favorite among the Orthodox Russian holidays.
The celebration of the Orthodox Easter marks the end of the Great fasting, which lasts 40 days (just like the Nativity Christmas fast I’ve mentioned).
Decorated eggs and easter bread are brought to the church a few days before. Just like a typical Sunday lunch or dinner, these and many other foods are put on the table.
Related: Serbian Slava: What Is It & Why It Is Celebrated
6. Spring and Labor Day (1 May)
People that grew up in the Soviet Union feel nostalgia when this holiday approaches. It is May Day, they tell each other!
The parades organized for the Spring and Labor Day are always cheerful.
Even though this tradition is somehow forgotten nowadays, the atmosphere on the streets and the wonderful colors of Spring make, Labour day one of the most celebrated and beloved holidays in Russia.
Russian Federation still gives five days off to its workers on this holiday.
7. Victory Day (May 9)
This holiday is celebrated by 95 percent of Russians and is the second-largest holiday in Russia (right after New Year’s Eve).
The festivities on Victory day usually begin on the morning of the 9th of May. The military parade is broadcasted on TV. The Red Square becomes the celebration of the military force that defeated the Nazi forces in World War II.
People congratulate the veterans, especially those who are part of their family. The Great Patriotic War left a deep mark on almost every family in Russia and those who defended the country are shown the highest respect.
This manifestation, which was officially constituted by the Russian Federation, is also traditionally celebrated in other ex-Soviet countries.
8. Russia Day (12 June)
Russia Day is one of the newest holidays, celebrated among the Russian population.
It was officially approved by the Russian Federation in 1992. On that day, a declaration of sovereignty was signed which guaranteed the sovereignty of the Russian nation outside the USSR.
Therefore, this holiday celebrates Russian independence.
However, not many Russian are celebrating this holiday. Only 54 percent of Russians celebrate Russia Day by some statistics.
Others think of June 12 as an opportunity to have three days off in the middle of summer.
9. Unity Day (November 4)
The National Unity Day is the newest holiday among the Russian public holidays. It has been celebrated since 2005.
After the split of the USSR (when all ex-Soviet countries had troubling times), the celebration of October Revolution Day (November 7) was officially dismissed.
However, Russians were quite satisfied with this date and didn’t give up on the non-working days in November without a fight (figuratively speaking).
The national unity is now mainly related to the Polish intervention from 1612.
The men in charge of this operation were Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky. They led the Russian uprising towards victory by being on the front line in the march against the Poles.
Today, both of them have memorials in the Red Square.
The national unity day in Russia celebrated its 200 year anniversary in 2012.
The Bottom Line
You’ve reached the end of this article. Congratulations! I hope you learned a thing or two about victory day, international women’s day, what is it like to celebrate a New Year in Russia, and more.
Russia is a great country, with wonderful holidays. If you find yourself there, try to enjoy yourself and you will understand the beauty behind their national holidays.