As Russia’s most celebrated super holiday approaches, we want to share the Russian Noviy God spirit with you! So today we bring you 5 traditional Russian New Year’s Eve dishes, and outline a typical Russian New Year’s Eve! We’re so glad you can join along with our festivities, and we hope you’ll give these incredible traditional Russian dishes a try.
New Year’s Eve in Russia is a huge celebration! It’s by far the biggest holiday celebration of the entire year. Something interesting to note, is that the Russian New Year’s Eve celebration resembles western Christmas in the fact that there is a Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and Snegurochka (Father Frost’s Granddaughter, Snowmaiden) who comes around bearing gifts on New Year’s Eve.
And because during the early mid-soviet period there was an official policy of state atheism, Russians were discouraged from religious celebrations. It wasn’t until 1935 that many Christmas traditions that had been eradicated after the October revolution, were brought back as a New Years celebration. The decorated Christmas tree was readopted during this time. Therefore New Year’s Eve is a bigger celebration in Russia, as opposed to Christmas Day in the west.
Today in Russia, Orthodoxy is the country’s most practices religion, constituting almost 50 percent of the country’s religious affiliation. The Russian Orthodox Church is an Eastern Orthodox Christian church. Making up another 25.2 percent is a group that are “spiritual but not religious”, and coming in second place.
It’s hard to imagine that in a country dominated by Christian beliefs, at one point Christian practices were banned. My father used to tell me stories of being a young Christian man in the Soviet Union and just how difficult it was. He was persecuted, as was my mother’s family. Something that stuck with me about what he said was that he was ridiculed and flunked in school by an atheist teacher, just because she knew that he was a Christian.
This is far from my childhood experience with school, as the teachers in the west were so respectful and kind to the children. I believe myself to have been very lucky to grow up at a time where religion was accepted in the United States.
And so we begin our New Year’s Eve festivities by scrambling to purchase last minute ingredients! Many of the items listed can’t be found at a regular grocery store. However you can find certain things like pickled veggies and caviar, fresh rye bread and even frozen pelmeni at a Euromarket.
1. Cold Appetizers- Open Face Sandwiches & Cold Cuts
These delightful cold appetizers make up a good chunk of space on a Russian’s New Year’s Eve table. Among the most popular is the open face sandwich. But not just any open face sandwich. We’re talking fresh baguette or rye bread, smothered with butter and topped with ikra (caviar). Add a little dill for garnish and taste, and there you have it; the first thing that disappears off our table of food!
See, ikra is a popular delicacy to have on special occasions. Because in Russia it was rare for even middle class folk to eat it, it’s one of those special treats you save for special occasions, and what better time to indulge than New Year’s Eve?
But don’t forget there’s also cold cuts, like kolbasa with sliced Havarti cheese. Sliced super thin and laid out in a beautiful platter various types of kolbasa, beef, pork, chicken, and different slices of cheese are arranged neatly. Russians like to make open face sandwiches made with butter, kolbasa and cheese on bread.
2. Shuba- Herring Under Fur Coat Salad
Some Russians will argue that you can’t have a New Year’s Eve celebration without a table full of Russia’s most famous salads. But Russian salads are not what you think. They are not low carb, green lettuce on a plate. No, Russian salads are made with fresh and boiled vegetables, bologna or kolbasa, and other ingredients such as hard boiled eggs.
Shuba, or herring under fur coat salad, is a classic Russian salad made with herring on the bottom of a rich salad made from beetroot, potatoes, carrots, and sometimes hard boiled egg. The ingredients are all boiled first, then grated, and assembled to make an attractive burgundy dish. The salad is piled high with vegetables, and between each layer of veggies, is when you add mayonnaise, olive or sunflower oil, and season the salad so that each layer that you bite into is perfectly seasoned. The word shuba means “fur coat” in Russian, thus giving meaning to this salad as herring under a fur coat.
3. Olivier Salad
Again, every Russian knows that Olivier salad belongs on a New Year’s Eve table! Alike to the herring under fur coat classic, the Olivier salad is a famous type of “potato salad”, though it’s nothing like the potato salads of the west. Olivier combines potato, carrots, eggs, dill pickles, ham or kolbasa, and cucumbers all minced neatly to create a colorful ensemble. Add green peas and fresh dill at the end, and mix in some mayonnaise (of course) and your Olivier salad is ready to serve. Get the recipe here.
4. Pickled Vegetables
An array of plated pickled vegetables covers a classic Russian New Year’s Eve table. Pickling has always been a very important part of Russian cooking. Pickling was meant to preserve vegetables during long cold Russian winters.
And today, even though you can find canned vegetables in Euro markets and regular grocery stores, there’s nothing like homemade pickled vegetables. You can really pickle pretty much any vegetable; mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes are among the most popular choices.
5. Roasted Meat Dish- Poultry or Pork
Almost always, in the middle of a Russian New Year’s Eve table is a main course dish, such as roasted poultry, pork, or beef. Yes, cold dishes make up most of the dinner, however you need something hot too. Whether it’s roasted chicken, beef/pork filled pelmeni or chebyreki, a beefy red borscht , or roasted pork chops, it works very well next to the cold appetizers.
In Russia, there is always song and dance. At a Russian New Year’s Eve party, prepare to hear some beautiful music, and dance your heart out. Many Russians play piano and guitar, and will bring on the song, just give them the excuse to! Especially common after a few shots of the old vodka, and some champagne toasts. Yes, the drinks at Russian New Year’s Eve are important too.
Russians tend to party in the home until midnight, and then the real party begins. If you’re looking for a night club to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Russia, you won’t find one open until after midnight. In fact people young and old, even children, will wait until after midnight to leave the house and view fireworks, or go sledding. It’s truly a celebration.
Happy New Year from the Things and Ways family to yours!