For many of us, traditions are what make the holidays so special. In the United States we celebrate many traditions as a nation: Santa Claus and his jolly crew going from house to house on the night of December 24th, the New Year’s Eve toast among family and friends, decking the halls and decorating holiday trees after November (unless of course you are in retail)! As a global company, we have such a diverse group of individuals working with us and we love to learn about the traditions in each of their native countries.
Olga Chaikouskaya, Chief Financial Officer at Stratosphere Quality, celebrates many American traditions with her family, but also incorporates the traditions true to her heart from her hometown of Belarus. We sat down with Olga to learn more about her favorite holiday customs true to her Russian heritage, and thought you would enjoy them too!
New Year’s Day is the biggest celebration of the year in Russia, and is similar to Christmas in the United States. The holiday celebration begins one to two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Families and friends join together and enjoy dinner while sharing reflections of the past year. This is a way to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new. Olga’s family would decorate their tree earlier on December 30th. They always had a live fir. For Olga, decorating the tree is one of her favorite childhood memories.
Ten minutes before midnight, the President of the Russian Federation gives a speech that is broadcast throughout the country. The President speaks shortly about the country’s life in the outgoing year, and then sends his greetings to all the Russians. The end of the president’s speech is usually followed by the first stroke of the Kremlin Clock.
At midnight, the Kremlin Clock begins to chime and rings for twelve counts. This is Olga’s favorite part of ringing in the New Year. As the clock rings, it prompts a time of reflection and an opportunity to set a sincere wish for the new year. This is not simply a general wish, it is a very specific and intentional wish that you hope to come true. Then, the Russian national anthem is played, fireworks light up the sky, and families and friends embrace, cheer, and toast with champagne. Listen to the Kremlin Clock chiming at midnight.
After the bell tolls…the party begins! Friends and family get together and sing, dance, perform skits, wear costumes or cocktail attire. Families and friends enjoy each other’s company, with the goal of starting the new year on a positive note. Olga pointed out that the belief is that how you celebrate that evening will set the tone for the year to come. So, avoiding conflict, sadness, or stress is very important while celebrating that evening.
Russian Christmas takes place on January 7th, but is a more subdued celebration and is mostly a time to spend more intimately with family and friends. This day closes out the holiday season.
Thank you, Olga, for sharing the holiday traditions that are so meaningful to you and your family!