Russian New Year traditions prove immutable

Decades pass, the socio-economic climate changes, but nothing can stop Russians from enjoying herring and tangerines with Soviet champagne throughout the country's 11 time zones on December 31st.

In fact, Soviet New Year traditions have proven so strong that many foreigners travel to Russia to experience them at the country's largest party held in Red Square.

At the stroke of midnight, fireworks lit up the sky above Moscow on Thursday, blasting away 2009 – a year that was far from bright for Russia.

2009 had brought the country a string of tragic incidents that took the lives of hundreds of Russians. Among these were the Siberian hydropower disaster, the terror attack on the Nevsky express train and the deadly blaze at a Perm nightclub.

“The past year was not an easy one for our country and I want to thank you all for standing strong in these difficult times,” President Medvedev said during his annual New Year’s address. “This shows we'll be able to move forward and create a country where our citizens are safe in every possible way.”

In the meantime, the hardships of the past year don't seem to have taken a toll on Russia’s youngest citizens, for whom the holiday has always been a particularly special time. Their number one problem is getting the right presents from Father Frost. And although this year the ability of parents to provide gifts may be limited by the credit crunch, right now the party is all that matters for Russians.

For the next week Russians will be putting their worries on hold as they celebrate the longest holiday of the year. With ten days off, the main concern for most people is likely to be stocking up on enough champagne.