Holiday season is upon us, and, in case you would like to wish your Russian contacts a Happy New year and a Merry Christmas - Russian style, here is a short guide. As you will see, even Christmas wishes are subject to cross cultural differences!

Christmas and New Year greetings in Russian

Christmas cards Russian style

Every time I write Christmas cards in English I want to make them much longer than they should be. Being brought up in the Russian culture, I want to wish everyone good health, a lot of happiness, great success, love, good luck, fulfilment of all their dreams in the new year and various other things. Translated into English it sounds completely over the top, and, supplemented by many exclamation marks (we like using those in Russian!) somewhat hysterical. So, I suppress my Russian impulses as hard as I can and reluctantly write “Have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year”. To a Russian, such a short greeting without any particular wishes or a personal touch sounds like you don’t care! 

How do we greet people at this festive time of year?

For a start, Russian Christmas (Jan the 7th) comes after the New Year, so we say “С Новым Годом и c Рождеством» (Happy New Year and Merry Christmas), and not the other way round. In Russia, the New Year is a much more important occasion than Christmas, so people exchange gifts and greetings a few days before and after Jan the 1st.

Before the New Year comes, we say “C наступающим Новым годом, or simply C наступающим!” – “Happy Coming New Year!” Russians are superstitious, and we don’t like to celebrate something that hasn’t happened yet. Once the new year starts, we say “С Новым Годом!» - «Happy New Year!» or a longer phrase: «С новым годом, с Новым счастьем!» - «New year, new happiness!”

New Year Wishes in Russian 

In writing, on cards, emails, text messages, the usual greeting formula is:

«Поздравляю Вас (тебя) с (наступающим) Новым Годом!» - “I congratulate you on the arrival of the New Year!” 

“Желаю Вам (тебе)” – “I wish you”, and here you can choose from the list of the most popular clichéd new year wishes:

  • Крепкого здоровья – good health (the most important wish for everyone!)
  • Семейного счастья – family happiness (for married people with a family)
  • Радости - joy
  • Любви – love
  • Успехов во всех начинаниях – success in all your endeavours
  • Успехов в работе (учебе) – success in your work (studies)
  • Хорошего настроения – good mood
  • Исполнения всех желаний в новом году – fulfilment of all your dreams in the new year
  • Удачи – good luck
  • Побольше радостных событий в новом году – a lot of joyful events in the new year

If you don’t want to sound conventional, you can make up any good wishes, customised for a particular person. But just saying “С Новым Годом” is not enough!

So, to all our students, friends and colleagues, here is a Russian style greeting: Happy Coming New Year! We wish you good health and a lot of happiness, success in your Russian studies, enjoyment of the great Russian language, and we look forward to seeing you in our Russian classes in the New Year!

С наступающим Новым Годом! Мы желаем вам крепкого здоровья и большого счастья, а также успехов и удовольствия в изучении русского языка, и мы ждём встречи с вами на уроках русского в Новом году!