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Russian Culture: Holidays

Santa Claus in Kharkiv Metro on the station So...
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If you decided to develop a relationship with a Russian woman, or if you are already married to one, make sure you remember main Russian holidays. Russians like holidays. They like to celebrate, to give and receive gifts, so please don’t skip Women’s Day or, God forbid, forget about getting her a Birthday gift. She may not say anything due to pride and modesty, but you will make her sad.

The biggest Russian holiday is New Year. Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) is a Russian version of Santa Claus. Ded Moroz is usually a chubby grandpa with white beard and big bag of gifts. He is often accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka (sort of a snow maiden). We like celebrating New Year so much that we celebrate it twice – on January 1st (by Julian calendar) and on January 14th (by Gregorian calendar).

The most important holiday as far as women go is March 8th, which is Women’s day. You should not forget this day under any circumstances. Men are supposed to give women flowers, gifts, take them out and basically worship them. In Russia the 8th of March is always an official day off but it is common for male co-workers to bring flowers, deserts or gifts to their female colleagues a day before. Again, this is not a holiday for lovers, like Valentine’s Day. This is a holiday when men show their appreciation and love to women: mothers, daughters, sisters, female friends, female co-workers, and of course, loved ones. So imagine if you brought your Russian bride to the US, where she barely has any friends and the ones she has are not Russians. It is the 8th of March – a holiday she has always been looking forward to; a holiday which made her feel loved, cherished, appreciated and the most beautiful. She doesn’t have her male relatives here, nor her colleagues, classmates of friends. You are the only male who can make this day special and…you forget. Man, this is bad. This is really bad.

Don’t underestimate cultural differences. If in your culture, this day doesn’t mean anything to you, it doesn’t matter it is the same for your Russian wife.

I speak from my own experience. I knew that my American husband had no idea what 8th of March was and what the big deal about it was, so I tactfully started hinting to him about it. Since January. When 8th of March came, nothing happened. I was hoping that he would surprise me with breakfast in bed, or take me out, or get me a gift. Nothing. By late afternoon I realized that he just forgot. I am not neurotic and I don’t cry often, but I cried. The holiday was very important for me and the way that he didn’t acknowledge it, meant that he didn’t care enough to remember. Or that’s what I thought. When he saw me crying, he ran to the store, brought me a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed bunny. He apologized for 258 times. All of these helped a little, but next year he forgot again.

I know he loves me, he is a wonderful man and I couldn’t have wished for a better husband. But he still forgets these things. And he thinks it is not a big deal I guess. Well, it is!

8th of March is a big deal in Russia and all FSU countries. WRITE THIS DOWN!

Holidays are always hard, because they bring memories with people you don’t see anymore. They bring traditions you no longer follow. It is not easy, trust me.

OK, enough whining. Back to business.

If your Russian bride is Russian Orthodox, remember that Russian Orthodox holidays are celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar. Christmas is always celebrated on January 7th.

Religious holidays don’t have to be gift-giving holidays, so you can relax here. (Just don’t forget 8th of March, her Birthday and New Year! Oh, and Valentine’s Day wouldn’t hurt too.)

There are other holidays such as Labor Day, Victory day, or Independence day, but unless you decide to move to Russia, they are not something you have to worry about.


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