So, you are wanting to wish a Russian friend a “Happy New Year” and you go onto the internet for some help.
This should be a straightforward task, and Google Translate is indeed rapidly improving, but unfortunately you will most likely make a situational error in congratulating your Russian friends on their nation’s most important holiday.
Now to be sure, Google Translate is correct: The Russian version of Happy New Year” is “S Novim Godom”(С Новым Годом). This literally means “with the new year” and the “I congratulate you” is implied (I always wondered why Happy Birthday in Russian was “With your birthday”).
But here is a Russian congratulation nuance: You will only be absolutely correct to say “S Novim Godom!” on New Year’s Day, starting at midnight.
But at any moment before or after New Year’s Day you are to use different phrases in Russian.
Before New Year’s Day, including December 31st (!), you are to congratulate with the coming New Year. This is an awkward phrase in English to be sure, but shows the importance of not only understanding a language, but also the situations that its culture presents.
“With the coming New Year” in Russian is “S Nastupayushchim Novim Godom” (С наступающим Новым Годом). Or you can simply say “With the Coming!” (“S nastuypayushchim!”). And if you think that’s difficult to say, try to pronounce this short Russian word.
After New Year’s Day you can congratulate “With the New Year’s that has come”, which in Russian is “S Nastupivshim Novim Godom” (С наступившим Новым Голом). Or simply “S nastupivshim”.
Now, if you’ve made it this far in this blog post and really want to show off to your Russian friends, Orthodox Christmas is on January 7th. That means you can say “S nastupivshim i s nastupayushchim!”. That means “With that which has come (implied New Year) and that which is to come (implying Christmas)”.
As with most simple social interactions like saying hello or shaking hands, if you do it the simple way (in this case “S Novym Godom!” regardless of the day you are congratulating), your Russian friends will simply appreciate your effort to speak their language and show you that you are impressed. But with just a bit more resolution (maybe New Year’s resolution?) to not only speak Russian well, but understand it’s many nuances you will knock your Russian friend’s socks off.
Because Grandfather Frost and Santa Claus are two very different personalities and the way we celebrate holidays in Russia, including New Year’s Day are different. So, let’s enjoy the fine points of the holiday diversity together.
And if nothing else, isn’t it great to know that human intellect hasn’t been entirely replaced (just yet) by Google?
Happy New Year, my friends!