During our Christmas countdown, we have been traveling all around the world to discover new traditions. To end 2020, we have asked Anya to tell us about the Russian New Year's Eve.
Born and raised in Russia but now living in Western New York, with her husband and their darling daughter Ivanna Antonina, Anya loves to recreate and share her childhood end of year traditions with her American friends and family. As the Russian saying goes, "The way you spend New Year’s Eve is the same way you’ll spend the rest of the year."
Growing up in Russia’s Far East, I always remember New Years as the most anticipated and cheerful holiday. New Year’s Eve was spent cleaning, watching old holiday movies and making bowls upon bowls of classic salads, appetizers, and favorite foods. We would then gather for a late dinner, usually not starting before 10pm and lasting late into the night, sitting by the New Years tree.
It looks exactly the same as the Christmas tree but is called differently because religious holidays were outlawed during the Soviet Union years. There was a short period when Christmas trees were banned completely but then were turned into 'New Year’ Trees, as New Years is a secular holiday. For the occasion, Russian people were allowed to put up a tree and still do to this day.
After supper, we would also watch holiday programs on TV, drink champagne and celebrate into the early hours of New Year's Day. Since moving to the USA, I have been keeping these traditions alive.
Cleaning the house prior to New Years Eve is a must. So is showering, bathing and wearing new clothes to ring in the New Year. The idea is to attract good luck and wealth for the year ahead. In regards to what to wear, it actually ties to Chinese astrology, which is now widely popular in Russia. 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox. It is suggested that to satisfy the Metal Ox, you should wear clothes in light, natural or metallic shades. No deep, dark colors that are not found in nature. I have Ivanna’s outfit planned but not mine yet!
In the evening, we love to watch Russian Novogodniy Goluboy Ogonyok on YouTube which is a New Years Eve program featuring singing, dancing and comedy, running most of the night. You can click on the link below to watch last year’s one. The 2021 edition will be broadcasted on the 31th.
My American friends love it, along with all the food, and various Russian traditions I ask them to partake in. For instance, right before midnight, we write down a wish on a small piece of paper, which we burn right above our glasses of champagne so that the ashes fall in. We then clink with everyone, and drink it as the clock strikes midnight, in the hope that our wishes will come true! My favorite New Years are those filled with family and friends around a table laughing and enjoying each other's company at the comfort of our home.
I also love spending the day making classic dishes along with some new ones. This is something I can already share with my daughter. She has just turned two and is such a great little helper in the kitchen. More specifically, she is the head ingredient mixer around here. This New Years eve, she will be helping mix the famous Olivie Salad, which graces many Russian New Years Eve tables including ours. Every family has their own variation! I can’t invite you all over to celebrate but I can share our version of the Olivie recipe.
Salad Olivie for 6-8 people
- 7 medium gold potatoes
- 8 eggs
- 600g of Mortadella or Low Sodium Bologna
- 1 can of peas
- 10-12 dill pickles
- 7-8 carrots
- 5 green onions
- 1 bunch of dill
- 500 g of mayonnaise (preferably homemade or Trader Joes)
- Black pepper to taste
Wash and scrub the potatoes and carrots. Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes for carrots and for 20-25 minutes for the potatoes or until a knife pierces through easily. Be careful not to overcook. Set aside to cool.
In another pot, add the eggs, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and take off the heat. Let stand for 10-12 minutes. Take eggs out of the water and let them cool.
Peel the potatoes and eggs. Dice them along with carrots, meat, pickles in same size cubes. Mix in a large bowl. Drain the peas and add to the bowl. Chop the green onions and the dill and add to the bow. Add the mayo and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in a large bowl. I like to use a 9” springform pan to shape the salad on a plate. I boil extra carrots, which I slice; so I can decorate the salad like a clock with arrows pointing to 5 minutes to midnight. I then put some mayo in a plastic bag, cut off the corner and write the hour numbers on the carrots. It makes for a nice presentation.
As the New Year approaches us with hopes anew, here is to wishing you and your family a wonderful year ahead! S nastupayushim novim godom!
Follow Anya and her family on Instagram : @a.n.y.a_k
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