Why the Russian New Year is Celebrated Twice – Or More!

New Year is a celebration that we all enjoy – as does everyone else around the world – but in some places it does seem to be enjoyed a little more than in others! While many cultures and countries mark this event on the night of December 31st, Russians have a unique tradition that extends their New Year celebrations well beyond this date. This tradition involves the intriguing concept of celebrating the New Year twice, with one of the most fascinating aspects being the observance of “The Old New Year.”

So if the New Year’s holidays come and go a bit fast this year for you – if it seems over before it’s even begun – then we suggest you celebrate like a Russian and do it in style!

Before we do that, however, let’s find out a little more about the Why and not just focus on the How – although you probably already have some ideas about that yourself!

Russian New Year Celebrations – A Double Celebration

In Russia, the New Year is celebrated not just on December 31st but also on a second date, known as the “Old New Year.” The reason behind this double New Year celebration dates back to historical changes in the Russian calendar.

Although it is true that the ‘normal’ New Year date – 31st December/1st January – is recognised now as the main New Year celebration, there are still many Russians who will celebrate again on the 13th/14th January. After all – if something is worth celebrating, then why not do it twice?

But apart from this, it was for many years a part of the Russian New Year tradition, and cultural celebrations are slow to disappear.

Many Russians will wait until the 14th January before taking down their Christmas tree (or New Year tree for many) and putting away the decorations. It somehow doesn’t quite feel like the new year has truly started until the 14th January has come and gone, and the old year is properly put to bed.

The Old New Year

The adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1918 led to a discrepancy between the Julian calendar, which was previously used in Russia, and the new incoming Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar was two weeks behind the Gregorian one, causing the celebration of New Year’s Day to shift from January 14th back to January 1st. Despite the calendar change, some Russians continued to celebrate the New Year based on the old Julian calendar, resulting in the unique observance of “The Old New Year” on January 13th/14th.

This also worked well for Orthodox believers, who were avoiding meat and alcohol in the run-up to Christmas, which for them is celebrated on January 7th. As you can imagine, this put something of a damper on their festive New Year celebration – so the opportunity to celebrate a happy New Year on the night of the 13th of January gave them the chance to catch up and celebrate like a Russian should!

New Year Traditions in Russia

The Russian New Year is a time of jubilation and cherished traditions for Russians. Families gather to enjoy lavish meals, exchange gifts, and partake in various customs to usher in good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Fireworks light up the sky at night, while streets and homes are adorned with colourful decorations, including Christmas trees, and create a festive atmosphere.

An important part of the preparation for the happy new year is the new year tradition of cleaning self, house and home. Russians like to start the new year with a clean home, body and mind – so many will pay a visit to a Russian banya as part of their New Year tradition.

Banya is an integral part of the Russian culture. Of all the ways to bathe, this is the most enjoyable and is easily accessible even in the UK. Gobanya can be found in London at Banya No.1 – Chiswick and if you really want to celebrate like a Russian, then this is the place to do it.

This unusual experience is one not to be missed – and once you have tried it, you may well want to make it a part of your New Year tradition in the future.

Banya is a wonderful experience of steam room, plunge pool, and a host of other treatments such as massage and skin treatments – but the essence of it is the steam.

A spa day in a Russian banya is unlike any other sauna you have tried before – and if you really want to celebrate like a Russian then be sure to book a Parenie treatment, which takes place in the steam room. This is a very special steam massage, that will cleanse your body like no other treatment can and is a common element in the Russian New Year banya experience.

Santa at Banya No.1 - Chiswick

The Banya Experience

As we have said, Banya is a rejuvenating experience that holds significant importance for Russians, especially during New Year’s celebration. The Banya, akin to a sauna, offers more than just relaxation; it’s a social ritual deeply ingrained in Russian customs.

The Parenie treatment involved lying on a bench in the steam room while a therapist thrashes you with bundles of aromatic birch, oak and eucalyptus leaves. This wafts the hot steam around your body (the steam massage) while the leaves themselves make for an amazing exfoliation experience.

After this, you dunk yourself in ice-cold water. You can jump into a plunge pool or dunk yourself with an ice bucket. In Russia, they will even go out and lie down in the snow if there is a convenient area to hand!

Parenie treatment - Banya No.1 - Chiswick Icy plunge pool - Banya No.1 - Chiswick

This banya experience leaves you feeling wonderfully relaxed and refreshed – so after this, the best thing to do is sit in the rest and relaxation lounge at Banya No.1 – Chiswick and have a drink and something to eat.

Now – doesn’t that sound like a great way to start the new year?

Embracing the Banya Experience

The Banya experience goes beyond mere spa treatments; it embodies a spiritual and communal aspect where friends and family come together to cleanse both body and mind. The heat of the steam, the traditional venik (leafy branches), and refreshing rituals symbolise purification and renewal – a perfect parallel to the spirit of New Year celebrations.

And this is another aspect of the traditional Russian banya experience – it is not meant to be done alone. Banya at its heart is about sharing, so it’s a perfect way to celebrate the new year with family or friends. Banya alone is good. Banya with company is amazing!

The Old New Year - Banya No.1 - Chiswick

Banya No.1 – Chiswick – Where Tradition Meets Modern Celebration

Banya No.1 – is where you can enjoy the luxury and comfort of modern spa day treatments alongside a traditional Russian banya.

Each booking comes with a private booth in their rest and relaxation lounge, so it is the perfect venue to celebrate the new year (either of them) with friends or family.

There is also an extensive food and drink menu to keep you satisfied after your treatment regimes, so there is no reason not to celebrate one of the New Years this year in style.

Family Spa Day

The idea of celebrating the New Year twice, incorporating the Old New Year tradition, highlights the richness and depth of Russian culture. From vibrant celebrations and cherished traditions to the revitalising Banya experience, the Russian New Year festivities showcase a blend of history, joy, and meaningful customs.

In fact, celebrating the New Year’s holiday is so enjoyable at a banya that sometimes it gets celebrated more than twice! If it’s a good reason to celebrate, and the celebration is fun, then why stop at two?

Many Russians have banya visits as a regular part of their health and relaxation regime – and for good reason. It really is an enjoyable experience unlike any other – and it is good for you!

So this new year (even if it is the one in the middle of January) – take a few hours out of your busy life and book yourself into a spa experience at Banya No.1 – Chiswick – and celebrate the New Year like a true Russian.

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