Happy New Year Russian Style

Russia is preparing for the New Year’s celebration which is probably the country’s biggest nationwide event when tens of millions of parties will be held around Russia, most of them featuring a traditional New Year meal.

As the old Russian saying goes, how you celebrate the New Year is how the entire year will turn out, a sentiment that has the country preparing to greet 2010 with style.

But in addition to the fireworks on Red Square and the celebratory bells of the Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower, few things truly mark the country's largest holiday like a full Russian feast.

“On a festive table you’d always find a big baked head of a pig. It’s been baked for a long time and it was very tasty. Now it looks rather scary!” Marianna Orlinkova, deputy editor of Gastronom magazine, remembers how it used to be in the old days. “Besides, they had some poultry like a goose, a turkey and some chickens which were specially prepared for the holiday. The idea of the festive table was to have all of the goodies which you refused yourself in every day life.”

Any Russian New Year’s dinner table is impossible without the Olivier salad, a tradition that dates back to Tsarist times. Though the traditional ingredients and preparation are quite simple, this item is mandatory.

“At present, there are many variations of the salad,” says cook Denis Kurchatov. "In principle, the basic ingredients are the same: like boiled potatoes, green peas, carrots, but many people now, for example, substitute preserved peas with natural peas. They add salmon, crab or other fish. Some people can add chicken. Therefore, it differs!”

Aside from the savory salad treat, there is no Russian New Year without tangerine dreams.

“When I was a small girl, I decorated a New Year’s tree with tangerines and walnuts wrapped in foil,” remembers Marianna Orlinkova. “Tangerines were also placed on a big dish and put under the New Year’s tree. For a Russian resident, the smell of tangerines and fur-trees comes together and symbolizes New Year’s Eve."

The tradition of food as part of the fun on New Years is one that reaches way back in Russian history, so from the cooking of the goose to the popping of the champagne, from all of us at RT – Happy New Year’s Russian Style.