Home » Culture and History

Russian Holidays 101

10. January 2011 by Christy 0 Comments

Learning about a Russian lady’s country and culture is a great way to expand your horizons and show her that you care. Here’s a brief overview of Russia’s major (and not so major) holidays to help you in the upcoming year. Click on the links in the descriptions to learn more about a particular day.


Christmas, January 7

The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar. Therefore, Christmas and the New Year holiday occurs later in the FSU than in countries that follow the Gregorian calendar. Russians celebrate Christmas much in the same way as their Western counterparts, with a few cultural differences (Ded Moroz, The Holy Supper, etc.). It’s not uncommon for Russians to celebrate Christmas twice, once on December 25th and again on January 7th.


Orthodox New Year (Old New Year), January 14

New Year holidays in Russia last for ten days, and many citizens consider the Orthodox New Year (January 14) to be bigger than Christmas. Drinking, dancing, parties, and fireworks are just a few ways Russians, and other citizens of the Former Soviet Union, celebrate the Orthodox New Year. They also celebrate the Gregorian New Year on December 31st.


Defender of the Fatherland, February 23

Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland Day (also known as Men’s Day or Red Army Day) historically honors the Russian men who served in the Armed Forces. Today, however, it is more of a celebration of men in general.


International Women’s Day, March 8

Primarily celebrated in the Former Soviet Union, International Women’s Day honors women and the contributions they have made to society. On this day, men express appreciation to the ladies in their lives by presenting flowers and gifts. Though International Women’s Day has been called a mix of Mother’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day, the holiday applies to all women, not just mothers and sweethearts.


Cosmonautics Day, April 12

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became a global hero when he made one complete orbit around the Earth aboard the Soviet Spacecraft Vostok 1. Cosmonautics Day, or Cosmonauts’ Day, honors this achievement.


Spring and Labor Day, May 1

Spring and Labor Day, or May Day, honors the social and economic achievements of the nation’s workers. On this public holiday, millions of Russians march in parades to draw attention workers’ plights, or take a more low key approach and relax and picnics and barbecues.


Radio Day, May 7

Radio Day, or radio and television day, commemorates the development of radio in Russia.


Victory Day, May 9

Victory Day celebrates the victory of Russia over Nazi Germany. Russians typically celebrate by attending a local military parade, watching fireworks, and giving red carnations to living veterans or placing them at war memorials. Each year, a huge Victory Day parade takes place in Moscow’s Red Square and thousands of people flock to the city to see the huge display of military might.


Russia Day, June 12

Russia Day is the anniversary of the day Soviet leaders signed the declaration of Russia's state sovereignty. Much like Victory Day, parades, concerts, festivals, and fireworks are how Russians mark this special occasion.


Ivan Kupala Day, July 7

Opposite of the winter solstice, Ivan Kupala is an ancient holiday believed to stem from pagan fertility rites. On this day, unmarried women float wreaths of flowers down a river and single men attempt to capture them. Bonfires and dancing are also common.


Knowledge Day, September 1

Knowledge Day is traditionally the first day of school in Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union. On this significant day, students say farewell to the summer holidays and ceremoniously welcome the beginning of autumn and the start of a new academic year.


Unity Day, November 4

National Unity Day, or Day of People’s Unity, commemorates an uprising in 1612 which expelled the Polish-Lithuanian occupation force from Moscow and brought an end of the Time of Troubles. The holiday is called Unity Day because Russians of all classes came together to rid the country of foreign invaders and preserve their homeland.


Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween, are also celebrated in Russia, though some (like Easter) are obviously more popular than others. Now that you know what the major holidays in Russia are, don't forget to wish your special lady a happy Old New Year!