What Are “Red Calendar Days” in Russia?

When Russians work, they work hard.  And when they don’t work?  Well, just forget about it.  So, learn to plan ahead.

It’s like the Hunt For Red October, but actually very different.  Russians refer to national holidays  as “the red days of the calendar”.

As many of you know, I believe that real capitalism is what you will find in Russia.  Although, the Motherland has a reputation for red tape, if you take a closer look, you will most certainly be surprised at how many areas of the economy are left largely unregulated.  And many businesses will work later into the evening than their Western counterparts, and provide services at what seems to be nearly any time of day or night.

But Russia makes up for all that free market economy enthusiasm during the “Red Calendar Days”.

I have seen more than one unsuspecting foreign businessman left “all dressed up and no place to go” because he had planned his trip without first consulting the Red Days of the Calendar.

Here are the 2019 Russian national holidays:

  • January 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 are New Year’s holidays
  • January 7: Christmas
  • March 8: International Women’s Day
  • May 1:  The Holiday of Spring and Labor
  • May 9: Victory Day
  • June 12: Russia Day
  • November 4: The Day of Unity of the People

Worth noting:  This blog post was originally written in 2018 and has now been updated for 2019, and I notice that there are fewer “red days” in 2019 than last year.

If you do come to Russia sometime around these holidays you will get extra credit for knowing the meaning of the holiday and appropriately congratulating your Russian friends.

Forget about engaging in commercial trade, discussion of the buying, selling, bartering, or trading of any products or services on Red Calendar Days.  I mean seriously.  I think you could walk through some Siberian neighborhood tossing Ben Franklins into the wind, and no one would bother to bend over to pick any of them up.  There is nothing worse than preparing, getting all dressed up, and then not being appreciated for it.

When Russians work, they work hard.  And when they don’t work?  Well, just forget about it.  So, learn to plan ahead.

I will even take this a step further- many Russians plan shorter vacations around these days- it’s a great way to use less vacation day.  So, before planning your next trip to Russia, be sure to check the holiday dates, but if you are coming anywhere near a holiday, it’s a great idea to call the folks you plan to meet with and say when you are coming and make sure that you aren’t interfering with their Red Calendar Plans.

And why am I writing this post?  Well, today is February 23, which is Defender of the Fatherland Day.  I know very well about this holiday, but in the busyness of this week it had slipped my mind.  So, even after all these years, I made a rookie mistake, and found myself flat-footed yesterday- realizing I had promised to get some work done today, but then realizing last minute it wouldn’t be happening. Because all of my co-workers would most certainly be celebrating this Red Calendar Day.

And so, as my mom taught me “If you can’t beat them, then join them”,  and yesterday I wrote an apology to the folks I had promised to get the the work done for today.  And this morning I took the kids sled riding.

Because there is a lot to said for work ethic.  With the work ethic, in Russia I’ve learned the value of a little rest and relaxation.  After all, “the work is not a wolf- it will not run away into the forest”.  And we will all be hard at it again on Monday.


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