If the various cold salads don’t scare you away, the mandatory adult dress-up might. It’s
the fuckin’ Catalina.. Russian New Years.
If you’ve never heard of or seen the debauchery that occurs during a traditional Russian New Years celebration, I’m sorry.
This piece should, however, provide you with some insight on how to behave and what to bring/wear/say if you ever find yourself at a Russian friend’s or future Russian significant other’s New Years party, aka the most important night of the year.
Do not refuse slippers, under any circumstances
If the lady of the house offers you slippers for your feet–no matter how dank or beat up they may look–put them on. If you refuse, she, along with every other slipper-obsessed member of the family will look at you like you like you have an ass on your face. Put. Them. On. And don’t even try to understand how or why the family is equipped with enough for an entire party.
Never come empty handed
Standard etiquette for any Russian gathering usually requires bringing something; anything so that you’re not the putz who came empty handed. But, on New Years, asking what to bring first might be your best bet. If the hosts say “nothing,” don’t be fooled. They’re expecting alcohol.
Look away from the TV
You are going to see some things on the screen that will make you think you’re hallucinating. You’re not. It’s just your standard New Years concert–featuring an abundance of Russian celebs, singers and actors putting on skits and performances that will literally make you think you dropped Acid.
It’s not a Christmas tree
It’s a Yolka and they are a New Years tradition for Russians. Call it a Christmas tree one time, see what happens.
Be careful where you sit
You might not have a choice in the matter, but if you can avoid sitting near someone who is dressed like this woman, avoid it all costs.
Dressing up is a thing
Usually the man of the house–and his friends–take on the various roles of traditional New Years characters, this includes but is not limited to: Grandfather Frost (or Santa’s distant Jewish relative as my father likes to call him), Snigurachka (a helper of sorts that, at our New Years parties at least, almost always involves a man in a bra), and an assortment of other random costumed characters that help give out presents to the children.
Stop looking at the TV
Shits gettin’ real weird now.
No one cares that you “just” took a shot with uncle Boris, if cousin Nikolay asks you to drink, you drink.
Know when to go home
Normally, the hosts–who have been drinking for hours on end–will never tell you when it’s time to leave. It’s up to you to decide when the proper time has come. Usually it’s somewhere around there’s-no-more-vodka.
It’s weird, it’s fun, and it’s the norm for a lot of Russian folk out there. And, if by the end of the night, you find yourself hugging a grandma who is trying to give you food to take home, you know you’re in.
S’ Novym Godom ya’ll!