Stretching from Europe in the west across Asia until it reaches the Pacific Ocean in the far East, Russia is a large country known for its mysterious expanse of majestic snow-capped mountains, ocean-sized lakes, remote rugged wilderness, and picturesque countryside. Besides, Russia is also well-known for its rich traditions and age-old culture. And, attending these festivals is one of the best ways to immerse in a country and its culture. From music festivals to national festivals, there are over 1,500 festivals celebrated each year in Russia and every event is attended by millions of people irrespective of nationalities or religion. Here is a list of some of the most colorful and unique festivals for you to plan your next vacation as part of Russian tour packages.
The New Year
New Year’s Day is one of the most popular and important festivals celebrated all over Russia. As Christmas was banned for many years in Russia, many of the Christmas traditions were diverted to the New Year celebrations on 31st December where people now decorate New Year trees instead of Christmas trees, and Father Frost, accompanied by his granddaughter Snow Maiden delivers presents instead of Santa Claus. During this festival, people enjoy the day to the fullest with parties and feasts. If you are planning to visit Russia during New Year’s Eve then you must be present at Red Square in Moscow for the amazing fireworks that happening at midnight. Moscow is one of the prominent places to visit in Russia.
Christmas was banned in Russia after the 1917 Revolution, and Russians could only openly observe Christmas in 1992. Unlike other countries, Russians celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus on the 7th of January every year. So, if you are planning to visit Russia during January, you can have the chance to celebrate Christmas a second time after celebrating it on the 25th of December. During this time, every bridge, park, and public places were decorated with beautiful lighting. It is mainly a religious occasion when families gather together to attend church services on Christmas Eve, then go home to feast on a special holy supper, which includes kutia, a porridge with raisins. There is also a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas Day when Christians do not eat meat.
The Maslenitsa Festival is one of the important and popular events in Russia that celebrates the farewell of winter and the coming of spring. Also called the pancake festival, this week-long festival is observed in February seven weeks before Easter. They combine the pagan tradition of marking the transition from winter to spring with the Christian tradition of feasting before Lent. Maslenitsa marks the beginning of Lent, and traditionally the last week milk, eggs, and butter can be consumed. So naturally, blini (pancakes) are consumed in great quantities every day. More like a carnival than an Orthodox Holy Week, it is celebrated all over Russia with parades, live music, dancing, and fireworks. The festival culminates with the burning of a life-sized straw effigy of ‘Lady Maslenitsa”, meant to represent winter. During the festival, one can also try some popular foods of Russia.
Reindeer Herder’s Festival
Held annually for nearly 70 years, the Reindeer Herder Festival is one of the most famous winter festivals in Russia. The festival is aimed at preserving the ancient traditions of Yamal’s indigenous Nenet people, the last remaining people to practice large-scale, nomadic reindeer herding, completing a one-way migration of up to 1,000 km from the Russian mainland to their summer grazing camps above the Arctic Circle. At the end of this backbreaking journey, the Nenets let their hair down with this festival, held in the town of Salekhard on the last Saturday of March. The main spectacle is an incredible variety of reindeer races that even includes reindeer skiing. Besides, one can also find delicious snacks made from the meat of Reindeer.
Moscow Golden Mask Festival
The Golden Mask Theater Festival is a Russian theater festival and competition held every year in April in Moscow. This event is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the Moscow Government. This event presents an almost two-month-long program of the most important and innovative performances from all over Russia. Held in a variety of prestigious venues, the festival covers all genres of theatre art including drama, opera, ballet, modern dance, musical, and Russian puppet theatre. A prestigious awards ceremony is staged on the festival’s closing night in late April.
Victory Day is celebrated on 9th May every year in Russia to commemorate the victory of Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in 1945. Celebrated by the military unit of Russia, this event showcases with parades, spectacular fireworks, displays of military strength, and many more. The most impressive and thrilling event will be held in Moscow’s Red Square, where soldiers showcase their discipline, other segments include the showcasing of many tanks, missiles, and other military equipment. Thousands of people come here to feel the emotion of patriotism while watching the Russian military marching down on the street of Red Square.
St Petersburg White Nights Festival
White Nights Festival is an annual summer festival that kicks off in May and ends in July. The sun never fully sets between May and mid-June in St Petersburg due to its northerly location. One can talk a walk at midnight and still see the sun on the horizon providing a romantic backdrop for the annual White Nights Festival that celebrates music, dance, theatre, and the intoxicating spell of a city where day and night are one and the party never needs to stop. During this event, you will get to witness top-class Russian performers giving their best performances in various theatres. The Mariinsky Theatre alone has a program of more than 175 operas, ballets, and classical concerts. Besides, the entire city is buzzing with crowded bars and clubs, street performers, ice cream sellers, and spirited partygoers contributing to a carnival atmosphere. St. Petersburg is one of the most famous cultural destinations in Europe.
Russian winters are extremely long and arduous, so the Russians celebrate a month-long festival to make freezing temperatures more fun. All Russian cities have winter festivals celebrating local arts and culture, but the biggest and best is seen in Moscow. Celebrated from mid-December to mid-January, the festival is a massive annual event that sees the city decked out in thousands of fairy lights, squares turned into ice skating rinks, and a huge array of activities around the city that includes jingling your way through Izmailovo Park with a ride in a three-horse sleigh, wander through an outdoor exhibition of incredible ice sculptures in Gorky Park, and browse the handicraft markets, eat warm pancakes or bagels spread with jam or honey, listen to a balalaika concert or watch a winter fashion show in Revolution Square, among the best places to visit in Moscow.
Moscow International Film Festival
Held in June and July, the International Film Festival is a truly international event. It is first held in Moscow in 1935 when the jury was headed up by world-renowned film-maker Sergei Eisenstein and became a regular event since 1959. More than 200 films from 50 different countries are screened, with the best picture winning the Golden George. Celebrities and famous directors arrive for the screenings of Russian documentaries, short films, and the latest Hollywood blockbusters.