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Russia gives warm welcome to New Year amidst winter chill

Russia gives warm welcome to New Year amidst winter chill
Festivities are in full swing across Russia to mark the coming of the 2011 New Year, Russia's most popular holiday. In the capital, people traditionally go out to party on Red Square in the heart of Moscow.

Celebrations normally start with the President’s speech, followed by a fireworks display in the center of Moscow. It is also a tradition for Russians to light their own fireworks in specially designated areas. After the Kremlin clock strikes midnight, people cheerfully file out onto the streets and the capital erupts in a cannonade of lights and stars.Thousands turned up to enjoy the party on the stage, built especially for the celebration in Red Square. Over 1,5 million Muscovites descended on downtown, turning the center of the city into a giant street party, with 25,000 gathered just in Red Square. Those who braved the elements to claim their spot early were not disappointed. On the stroke of midnight the Kremlin’s clock tower rang out, marking the beginning of the night's main celebrations. The evening's crescendo was an enormous fireworks display over the Moskva river – a burst of color setting the scene for the capital’s New Year finale.

Moscow’s Red Square is the epicenter of these celebrations. But it is not just Muscovites who turn up on Red Square to enjoy the celebration.“Everyone is having a great time. Just a great atmosphere. The entertainment is great, there’s been a bit of commercial music, some classic Russian songs and great fireworks! The display was really exceptional!” a UK citizen who was spotted celebrating on Red Square told RT. “They [New Year celebrations in Russia and UK] are quite different. We have Christmas, and Russians have Christmas in January, so New Year ’s Eve is very important. Russians go the whole way, it’s big drinking, big partying. It’s one time when you see Russians at their best. The whole “cold front” comes down and everyone is really welcoming and happy. It’s great!”The Olympic city of Sochi was also having it’s own New Year celebration. However, citizens of Sochi were partying amidst palm trees, contrary to the Moscow snow. Sochi is known for its warm climate. Even in the cold months the temperature rarely drops below 9 degrees.Every year Sochi attracts thousands of visitors. There is a coastline, along with snow-capped mountains where people can ski, so its no wonder it is so popular among Russians.Sochi is going to host the 2014 Winter Olympic games, so the national teams and spectators from all over the world will be able to appreciate the beauty of both the city and region.

The first region to welcome New Years was Chukotka, near the border with Alaska. Russia has nine time zones and this means that it greets 2011 nine times, as opposed to 11 times due to a reduction in time zones which was signed into law by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March.Almost all of the European region of the country greets 2011 at the same time as the capital.The New Year is the biggest holiday in Russia, it even trumps Christmas. It is the night when children across the country receive presents from the Russian Santa Claus – Ded Moroz. It is also the night when Russian citizens enjoy fireworks, champagne and family get-togethers. It is a holiday everyone looks forward to.