Starting in late November, you may notice your Russian friends begin to ask you “how you will meet the New Year”.
And, naturally, by “meet” they mean “celebrate”.
For many years, I would shrug, and simply say, “I don’t know”. I would then see my Russian friend look disappointed.
As an American, New Year’s is a secondary holiday that ends at midnight. For the Russian people it is THE HOLIDAY and it doesn’t end at midnight. Midnight is when it begins. This was humorously illustrated some years ago by some American and Russian friends of mine who decided to meet the New Year together. The Americans showed up hungry at 7 p.m. and were surprised to see their Russian friends chopping vegetables for salads in their nightgowns. They finally had to reach a truce around 11 p.m. and compromised with an “early dinner”.
But the truth is, only a Russian novice will say, “I don’t know how I will meet the New Year”. A Russian expert will understand that there are three main correct answers on how to meet the New Year:
- We are going to “walk” with friends in the city center. Every city has its downtown program on the main square, complete with music, dancing, fireworks, and standing for hours. I’ve done this a couple of times in Moscow. I can say that the main fun is being with friends. Standing for hours waiting for fireworks is not the main fun.
- We are going to Thailand! Yes, that’s a place you can go to on New Year’s, if you are a Russian, and your Russian friends will gawk in wonder at your achievement.
- I will meet the new year “In the circle of my family”. * This is the safest answer that requires no commitment from you. If you are an American, you can then have dinner when you want, stay up and watch a movie, watch the televised fireworks at midnight, and then go to bed. That is, you can go to bed, if your neighbors’ volume levels are compliant. My vast experience has proven that the neighbors’ volume levels will only comply if all of your neighbors have chosen New Year’s Option #1 or New Year’s Option #2. So, good luck with that.
But the most curious part of this question, is why do Russians ask it? I can’t say that I am privy to this insider information. But I do have a couple of theories:
- Your Russian friend is looking for someone to meet the New Year with. And if you have a more awesomer way to meet the New Year with than his/her other friends and acquaintances they will begin to make plans with you immediately.
- How you meet the New Year is an indication of who you are as a person. This is why my friends looked so perennially disappointed in this humble blogger, when he answered the question. Indeed, not only did I have a bad plan as to how I would meet the New Year, I had no plan. I was a New Year dunce.
So, don’t be that guy. Have a ready answer. Shock and awe your Russian friends with your definite and amazing plan for how you will enter the New Year. For example, you could plan to enter 2016 in Thailand, in the circle of your family, by walking in the city center.
*If you go with cop out Option #3, you can add, “I know that who you meet the New Year with is the one you will spend the year with, so we want to be together as a family”. This Russian wisdom nugget will close the discussion. You will not be required to do anything for the New Year and your Russian friend will regard you with deep respect for being aware of this timeless Russian understanding of New Year and for valuing your family. You are welcome. You may now go to bed early.