Fireworks and Palaces: New Years in St. Petersburg
The New Year is nearly here! Just a few days back, it was the longest night of winter, and the city was knee-deep in snow; still, neither the bitter cold nor the unrelenting dark can sway the jubilant spirit of Russia’s most awaited holiday. As the popular Russian saying goes, a fulfillment of an upcoming year depends on how you spend your New Years Eve - so here are some tips for you to make the most of your New Year in Russia!
Needless to say, the New Year’s celebrations are the most festive time in our country. A truly eclectic event, it entwines various traditional holidays into a single grand festival that goes on for weeks; celebrating the New Year is one of Russia’s most hallowed traditions and one you absolutely can’t miss out on.
Though the story of New Year as a holiday in Russia is quite complex (you can read more about it in our last year’s article), the gist of the holiday is to simply have fun and make unique memories. As tempting the idea of lounging around for a whole week may sound, there are lots of different - and much more enticing - ways of spending the long-awaited winter holidays.
If you’re set on enjoying the New Year to its fullest, there are a few things to consider. A great thing about the Russian New Year is that it’s a perfectly secular holiday, so you can congratulate just about anyone on it! Actually, about a week before the actual event, people start saying “S’ nastupayuschim!” (“congratulations on the upcoming event”) to just about anyone - slight acquaintances, store clerks, even passers-by. Another tradition is giving gifts - primarily as a gesture, so you don’t have to go for anything expensive; a good place to get those are the various Christmas Markets that have already started working throughout the city.
Writing New Year’s resolutions isn’t really popular in Russia - rather, the tradition is to make sure that you’ve solved all your recent issues, so that you won’t bring your last year’s problems into the new one. Actually, working out some to-do list for the year’s last week and remembering all the small things you should’ve done but didn’t really do helps, so you might as well try it.
New Year’s Eve
Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is a time best spent feasting with relatives or close friends, and the next couple of days is often reserved for suffering the consequences (regrettably, many remember it for their worst hangover ever). Still, if you want to really feel the spirit of this holiday, it is far better to get out and join the festive crowd outdoors. In St. Petersburg, the main celebrations will start on the Palace Square at 11pm, and the pinnacle of it - the fireworks display - will take place at 3 am. Lots of smaller-scale events will take place throughout the city, so take your time to stroll through the beautifully-decorated city center; public transport will operate all through the night, so getting home won’t be a problem.
Winter Holidays: January 1 - 7
The festive spree of New Year celebrations doesn’t end with New Year’s Eve; the week-long winter holidays that follow in its path present a great opportunity to both wind down from the riot of December 31 and make lots of unforgettable experiences. So, what does St. Petersburg have to offer to those who are always ready to try something new?
Starting on January 2 and till the end of the week, the new Planetarium #1 will host a series of unique concerts. “Classics in the Dark” is an astounding performance where classical art meets modern technology: the marvels of classical music will accompany a great visual arts show projected on the world’s biggest planetarium dome. This novel format has already gained the appreciation of thousands, so be sure not to miss it!
A more traditional, but no less exciting event will take place at St. Petersburg Passenger Port. ZimaFest is a full-blown winter fair offering a huge program: from traditional winter activities like ice-skating and sledding to various workshops, quests and musical performances, as well as more peculiar events like the Pelmeni (Russian dumplings) Festival and the Husky Show. On January 7th, the last day of the event, there’ll be a traditional fireworks display.
In fact, during the winter holidays, there are Christmas markets in almost all of the city’s districts; the Christmas Fair on Pionerskaya square (near metro stations Zvenigorodskaya and Pushkinskaya) is a notable one. It features amusement rides, an outdoor ice-rink and 27 booths that represent 14 countries of the world and 13 regions of Russia. There, you can try varied foods and drinks from all over the world and buy souvenirs. The fair opened on December 23 - so if you haven't visited it yet, you can do it right now!
Be sure to also check out the Christmas fair at Yelagin Island and the New Year’s Bazaar at New Holland.
On January 3 and 4, the Festival of Colorful Smoke will take place at the Babushkina Park; hundreds of people will gather for this dazzling event to liven St. Petersburg’s grey skies with pillars of colored smoke. A great opportunity to take some great photos!
If you’re thinking of exploring beyond St. Petersburg, you might consider going to the nearby Gatchina for its New Year Bustle festival which will last throughout the winter holidays; apart from the usual range of activities you’d expect from a Christmas market event, this one offers unique tours and concerts at two of the town’s major sights - the Great Palace and the Priory Palace. In any case, Gatchina is great in winter, so going there on a one-day trip is definitely an idea to consider.
Finally, there will be the Christmas Star: Festival of Fire at the Spit of Vasilievsky Island on January 7 and 8; marvelous fire, laser and light shows, as well as a grand fireworks display will mark the end of the winter holidays.
Well, we hope that was useful. We wish you good luck, and a happy New Year!