New Year’s Eve on Red Square in Moscow!

С Новым 2012 годом!

2012, the New Year is ahead!

It is almost 9 am Moscow time and Russia’s capital city is bustling with activity as preparations are well under way for the biggest celebration of the year. Full daylight will arrive in 30 or so minutes but even the semi morning darkness of winter doesn’t seem to be slowing anyone down on this special day.

GUM department store turns part of Red Square into an outdoor skating arena each winter.

Today begins the biggest holiday of the year and tonight Russians and their related kin across the region will be celebrating “like it’s 1999” to borrow an American pop music phrase. This evening thousands of folks will begin making their way to Red Square:

Sometime during the evening the music starts and lively dancing and toasts begin. The finest champagne is held in reserve for after the midnight bells toll from the clock at the Kremlin. Just before midnight every television station switches to the Kremlin whose distinct red walls are dressed in a dramatic display of lights bathed in falling snow from Red Square.

Fireworks at the New Year on Red Square.

In Moscow the concert on Red Square will stop just before 11:55 and then President Medvedev will briefly address the Russian people. The crowd will count down the seconds on the clocks of the famous “Saviour” Tower (at right). This tower was built in 1491 and is so beautiful! Given the multiple time zones this scene will be repeated locally across the country starting in the far East and ending with Kaliningrad. Moscow is the next to last time zone.

The President will appear on the screen and in a solemn style deliver the traditional greeting to the Russian people. It is usually a very short speech and all across Russia the music has stopped. Dancing feet become still. It is as if even the sounds of the streets and the hissing steam from the heat radiators have also grown silent.

Those in the apartment, especially the elders and war veterans, stand at attention, glasses in hand, waiting for the playing of the Russian national anthem. Immediately it begins and afterward the glasses are raised heavenward in toasts to health, wealth, and happiness for the coming new years. Kisses, three times on alternating checks, are offered around the room.

Families are together, the adults will stay up all night, millions will watch the same traditional movie, and tables will overflow with salads, meat dishes, and desserts galore. In the morning Father Frost and the Snow Maiden will bring presents for the children!

Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden
Yummy! New Year's Eve table.

Just before midnight there will be a brief New Year greeting by President Medvedev and then lots of fireworks. So how are your stocks of supplies? Do you have enough fruit juice and some квас (lightly fermented soda) for the children? Hey, they deserve a little buzz too, ya know. I love квас. For the adults make certain you have plenty of champagne, wine, vodka.

"Kvas" from fermented black rye bread...delicious!

Fruit is important at the New Year dinner too. Russians consider things like tangerines, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, and grapes to be special treats in the winter. At about 8pm the salads begin to appear on the table, then soon followed by a never-ending stream of soups and meat dishes as favourite Russian culinary delights make their way from the kitchen to the living room table over the next several hours.

Fireworks will be heard everywhere, in cities and villages of all sizes. Frankly, it will sound like a war zone in large cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg, etc. But perhaps there is no better time to experience the mood and pulse of the Russian people’s devotion to family, their culture, and to their Motherland than over the New Year’s holiday celebration. Just to hear the Russian national anthem on this solitary moment can be the experience of a lifetime!

It is a very popular tradition across the former Soviet Union to watch the movie Ирония судьбы или С легким паром (“The Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath”), part one and part two. You will want to watch both parts in order to enjoy the entire story!

Wikipedia describes the movie this way: The movie is based on the premise that modern apartment complexes look so much alike that one cannot distinguish one city from another and on New Year’s Eve, Muscovite Evgeny Lukashin (Andrei Myagkov) finally dares to make a marriage proposal to Galya (Olga Naumenko).They plan to celebrate the New Year together quietly, but Lukashin’s friends convince him that first he should attend their annual meeting at a bathhouse.

The bathhouse meeting quickly turns into an improvisational bachelor party for Evgeny. Having consumed large amounts of alcohol, they cannot remember which one of them was supposed to fly to Leningrad to meet his wife. So they put the sleepy Lukashin on a plane.

Upon his arrival in the Leningrad airport, Evgeny gives the taxi driver his Moscow street address and the cab takes him to an apartment complex located on a street with the same name. The building looks very much like his own, so Lukashin, still not quite sober, does not realize that he is in another city. He enters someone else’s apartment because his key fits the door lock and he quickly falls asleep on a couch.

When the apartment’s rightful resident, Nadya, comes home, she wakes up the intruder and tells him to get out. The bewildered Evgeny insists that he is at home and she is the one who should get out. Eventually he sobers and finds out about his predicament.

He is about to leave when the situation is further complicated by the arrival of Nadya’s straight-laced fiancé Ippolit (Yuri Yakovlev) who does not believe in Lukashin’s story and accuses Nadya of being unfaithful. The interaction between the three characters results in Nadya and Evgeny’s gradual falling in love with each other.

Part One:

Part Two: