Russian National Holidays
New Year and Christmas
The Russian New Year is celebrated on January 1st. Many Russians still celebrate Old New Year which is held on January 13th. January 13th corresponds to the first of the year according to the Julian calendar, which was used in Russia until 1918. It differs slightly from the Gregorian calendar used by most of the world (the current difference between them is 13 days). After the Russian Revolution of 1917, all religious holidays, including Christmas were banned, so to many Soviet people the New Year was the biggest holiday of the year. Since 2005 New Year holidays (non-working days) last from January 1st to January 5th.
Since 1992 Christmas has been openly observed in Russia and now the New Year's celebration usually flows directly into the celebration of Russian Orthodox Christmas observed on January 7th. However, it is not celebrated as widely as New Year’s Eve when most people have a large family dinner with lots of entertainment. Father Frost (Russian version of Santa Claus) and Snow Maiden (his granddaughter and assistant) are often seen on the streets cheering people up. It is a New Year’s Day when children discover their presents from the Father Frost under the Christmas tree.
Defender of the Fatherland Day
On 23 February, Russia honors those who are presently serving in the Armed Forces and those who have served in the past. During the era of the Soviet Union, it was called Red Army Day or the Day of the Soviet Army and Navy (celebrating the day of the first mass draft of the Red Army in Petrograd and Moscow or of the first combat action against the occupying imperial German army). It is similar to Father’s Day in United States. On that day children would honor their fathers with small gifts and kind wishes.
International Women's Day
Every March 8th, the United Nations declares this day to celebrate women and the accomplishments they have made to society. Other than in the former Soviet republics, it is not celebrated much throughout the world. It is traditional on this holiday to present women with gifts and flowers to express appreciation for their work, love and devotion. It can be regarded as the equivalent of Mother's Day in United States.
In the former Soviet Union, May 1st was International Labors' Day and was celebrated with huge parades in cities like Moscow. Though the celebrations are low key nowadays, several groups march on that day to discuss the grievances the workers have. Several communist states (Cuba and North Korea) still hold this day as an official occasion with a military parade and columns of weapons and workers.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the celebration does not take place in Russia anymore. However, it remains one of the official national holidays where Russian people have a couple of days off.
On May 9th Russia celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany, while remembering those who fell in order to achieve it. May 9th was chosen, since in the night from 8th to 9th 1945 the German military surrendered to the Soviet Union and its Allies in Berlin (Karlshorst), for people in Russia this happened on the 9th (time change). A military parade is usually held in Moscow to celebrate the day.
Russia’s Day is a holiday of national unity celebrated in Russia on June 12. On this day, in 1990, Russian parliament formally declared its sovereignty. The holiday changed its name twice. Initially it was named Independence Day then in 1994 was renamed to Day of the adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russian Federation and finally on 1 February 2002 was officially renamed to Russia Day (in 1998 Boris Yeltsin offered this name socially). While the holiday has been officially recognized since 1991 when it was established by Boris Yeltsin, 2003 was the first year that it was celebrated in a major way, when promoted by Vladimir Putin.
November 4. Unity Day, first celebrated in 2005, commemorates the popular uprising led by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky which ejected the Polish invaders from Moscow in November of 1612, and more generally the end of the Time of Troubles and foreign intervention in Russia. The event was marked by a public holiday which was held in Russia on October 22 (Old style) from 1649 till 1917. Its name alludes to the idea that all the classes of Russian society willingly united to preserve Russian statehood when its demise seemed inevitable, even though there was neither Tsar nor Patriarch to guide them. Most observers view this as an attempted replacement to counter Communist demonstrations on November 7th holiday, which marked the anniversary of the October Revolution. This National Unity Day is also known as the Consolidation Day, which people in Russia celebrate on November 3 - 4. Consolidation Day and National Unity Day are the synonyms, as the holiday name may be translated in different ways, so it is a National holiday.
Other non-official Russian holidays are: Tatiana Day (January 25), Maslenitsa (a week before the Great Lent), Easter, Cosmonautics Day (April 12), Radio Day (May 7), Ivan Kupala Day (July 7).