Russian New Year and Christmas

Christmas tree with presents — a symbol
of Christmas. Photo by Malene Thyssen,
licensed under CC-SA 2.5

The New Year season, followed by Orthodox Christmas, is one of the most exuberant times of the year in Russia. Here you can learn more about the history of the New Year and Christmas celebrations in Russia, find some useful holiday greetings and their pronunciation in Russian, and enjoy festive holiday songs and toasts for a New Year party. You may also want to read about other popular Russian holidays in a different article.

This page includes:

Holiday Greetings

Let's start with a few basic words and phrases. The table below shows Russian phrases written in Cyrillic, pronunciation guide, and English translations.

Счастливого рождества!    
  [shchis-LEE-vah-vah razhdee-STVAH]
Merry Christmas! (lit: Happy Christmas)
C рождеством!
Merry Christmas! (lit: With Christmas)
Весёлого рождества!
  [vee-SYOH-lah-vah rah-zhdee-STVAH]
Merry Christmas!
С Новым годом!
  [SNO-vim GO-dahm]
Happy New Year! (lit: With New Year)
Счастливого Нового года!
  [shchis-LEE-vah-vah NO-vah-vah GO-dah]
Happy New Year!
От всей души поздравляю с ...           
  [aht fsehy doo-SHI pahz-drahv-LYAH-yoo s]
My sincere greetings with ...
       ...Новым Годом!
       [SNO-vim GO-dahm]
...New Year!
Желаю тебе/вам ...
  [zheh-LA-yoo teh-BEH/vahm ...]
I wish you ...
       ... счастья.
... happiness.
       ... удачи.
... good luck.
       ... здоровья.
... good health.
Пусть сбудутся все твои/ваши мечты!
  [poost' ZBOO-doo-tsa fseh tva-EE/VA-shi mehch-TI]
May all your dreams come true!
Желаю всего хорошего.
  [zheh-LA-yoo fseh-VO ha-RO-sheh-va]
I wish you all the best.
Счастья и здоровья!
  [SHCHAST'-yah ee zda-ROHV'-yah]
(I wish you) Happiness and health!

Note 1: The peculiarities of the Russian personal pronouns caused the necessity of mentioning two variants of some words within a sentence: as a rule the word before a slash is related to informal style, after a slash - to more polite, formal style.

Note 2: For convenience of pronunciation the words are divided into syllables, the capitalized syllables are stressed, the apostrophe (') indicates softness of the consonant.

Russian New Year and Christmas

For Russians, there is no holiday more important than the New Year. It is the first on the calendar and in popularity. People see the New Year in at midnight on the 31st of December. They greet the New Year with champagne and listen to the Kremlin chimes beating 12 o'clock.

Russian Holiday tradition includes a decorated New Year's tree - ёлка* (fir tree). Children always wait for Дед Mopoз* (Grandfather Frost), to come and bring them a present. Grandfather Frost's residence is situated in Velikii Ustug, the town on the north of Russia. Grandfather Frost is always accompanied by his granddaughter Снегурочка* (Snowmaiden) who helps him distribute the gifts. For the Russians, the New Year is a family holiday; people think about friends and relatives. But young people prefer to have the New Year parties of their own.

Don't be surprised, but at midnight on the 13d of January people in Russia celebrate Old New Year that corresponds to January 7th in the Julian calendar, used in Russia before 1918.

After the Revolution that took place in 1917 year religion was called as "opium for people" and Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. So celebrating New Year became a sort of "replacement" for it. Only after 75 years, in 1992, Christmas became openly observed. Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. A lot of people go to church services on that day. On the Eve of Christmas, it is traditional for all family members to gather. But, until now, Christmas is less popular in Russia in contrast to Britain or the USA, where it is the greatest holiday of the year.


ёлка (fir tree) is pronounced as "YOL-ka"
Дед Mopoз (Grandfather Frost) is pronounced as "deht ma-ROHS"
Снегурочка (Snowmaiden) is pronounced as "snee-GOO-rahch-ka"

New Year: December 31st - January 1st
Christmas: January 6th - January 7th
Old New Year: January 13d - January 14th

New Year Songs

Below are the texts of three popular children New Year songs: "Yolochka" and "V lesu rodilas' yolochka" are given in Cyrillic and transliteration, "Jingle Bells" is available in English original, in Russian translation and transliterated.


Маленькой ёлочке
Холодно зимой,
Из лесу ёлочку
Взяли мы домой.

Сколько на ёлочке
Шариков цветных,
Розовых пряников,
Шишек золотых!

Встанем под ёлочкой
В дружный хоровод.
Весело, весело
Встретим Новый год!
         ~ З. Александрова

В лесу родилась ёлочка

В лесу родилась ёлочка,
В лесу она росла,
Зимой и летом стройная,
Зеленая была.
Метель ей пела песенку:
"Спи, елочка, бай-бай!
"Мороз снежком укутывал:
"Смотри, не замерзай!"
Трусишка зайка серенький
Под елочкой скакал.
Порою волк, сердитый волк
Рысцою пробегал.
Чу! Снег по лесу частому
Под полозом скрипит;
Лошадка мохноногая
Торопиться, бежит.
Везет лошадка дровенки,
А в дровнях старичок, [мужичок]
Срубил он нашу ёлочку
Под самый корешок.
Теперь она, нарядная,
На праздник к нам пришла
И много, много радости
Детишкам принесла

Бубенчики (Jingle Bells)

/народная песня/
Блещет яркий снег,
Словно ветер, сани мчат,
Звенит веселый смех
С бубенчиками в лад.

На санках расписных
Прокатиться каждый рад,
И льется наша песня
С бубенчиками в лад.

Льется чудный звон,
Слышен смех со всех сторон,     
Сани мчатся под уклон.
        перевод Ю. Хазанова
(folk song)
Dashing through the snow,
In a one-horse open sleigh,
And o'ver the fields we go,
Laughing all the way.

The bells on bob-tail ring,
Making spirits brights,
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Jingle bells,
jingle bells,
Jingle all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

Holiday Toasts

If you'd like to surprise your friends with a traditional Russian toast, we recommend you to learn the following two.

The first one is short and very essential at the same time.

За ваше здоровье!    
  [za VA-sheh zda-RO-v'yeh]
To your health!

We are glad to present you another very popular Russian toast.

Мой прадед говорил: "Я имею желание купить дом, но не имею возможности. Я имею возможность купить козу, но не имею желания". Так давайте же выпьем за то, чтобы наши желания совпадали с нашими возможностями!

It can be translated into English as follows:
"My grand-grandfather said: "I have a desire to buy a house, but I have no opportunity. I have an opportunity to buy a she-goat, but I have no desire". So, let's drink to having correspondence of our wishes and opportunities!"

Pronunciation guide:
[mohy PRA-deht ga-va-REEL:"ya ee-MEH-yoo zhe-LA-nee-yeh koo-PEET' dohm, no neh ee-MEH-yoo vahz-MOHZH-nahs-tee. ya ee-MEH-yoo vahz-MOHZH-nahst' koo-PEET' ka-ZOO, no neh ee-MEH-yoo zhe-LA-nee-ya". tahk VI-p'yehm za to, SHTO-bi NA-shi zhe-LA-nee-ya sahf-pa-DA-lee s NA-shi-mee vahz-MOHZH-nahs-t'a-mee]

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