Old New Year or the Orthodox New Year

Old New Year Traditions: Celebrating the Orthodox New Year

The Old New Year, or the Orthodox New Year, is a traditional celebration observed on January 14th in countries and regions where the Julian calendar was used before transitioning to the Gregorian calendar. This date corresponds to January 1st in the Julian calendar, which lags behind the Gregorian calendar by 13 days. The Old New Year is not officially recognized as a public holiday in most countries but is widely celebrated, especially in Eastern European countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, Montenegro, and others.

The celebration combines folk traditions with religious aspects, as it is also the feast day of St. Basil the Great in the Orthodox Church. People often celebrate the Old New Year with family gatherings, festive meals, and sometimes with traditional singing and dancing. It serves as a continuation of the New Year’s festivities, allowing people to revisit the joy and camaraderie of the season. Despite its name, the Old New Year is not merely about nostalgia or adhering to the old calendar; it is a vibrant cultural event that fosters community spirit and marks the start of the year for those who celebrate it.

Key Traditions of the Old New Year, or the Orthodox New Year

  1. First-Footing
    A tradition where the first person to enter a household after midnight is believed to bring good fortune for the coming year. This person is often expected to bring symbolic gifts.
  2. Preparing a Festive Meal
    Families prepare a special meal that includes traditional dishes such as kutya (a sweet grain pudding), which symbolizes abundance and prosperity.
  3. Yule Log
    In some regions, burning a Yule log on Old New Year’s Eve is a tradition to symbolize the warmth and light of the coming year.
  4. Caroling
    Carolers go from house to house singing traditional songs to wish households prosperity and happiness, often receiving treats and gifts in return.
  5. Sowing Rituals
    In some cultures, grains are thrown around the house and onto family members to ensure fertility, prosperity, and protection against evil spirits.
  6. Vasilopita
    A special cake or bread, known as Vasilopita, is baked with a coin hidden inside. Whoever finds the coin is said to have luck for the year.
  7. Fortune-Telling
    Many engage in fortune-telling rituals on Old New Year’s Eve, using various traditional methods to predict the events of the coming year.
  8. Church Services
    Attending midnight church services is a common practice to mark the beginning of the Old New Year, featuring liturgies and hymns specific to the occasion.
  9. Fireworks and Bonfires
    Communities often light fireworks and bonfires to celebrate the arrival of the Old New Year, symbolizing the shedding of the old and welcoming the new.

Best Cakes, Cookies, and Sweets for Old New Year, or the Orthodox New Year

  1. Kutya
    A sweet wheat berry pudding often mixed with honey, poppy seeds, and dried fruits, symbolizing prosperity and health.
  2. Vasilopita
    A New Year’s cake or bread baked with a hidden coin inside for luck, often flavored with orange zest and decorated with almonds.
  3. Sushki
    Small, dry, ring-shaped cookies that are often dunked in tea or coffee, popular in Russia and Eastern Europe.
  4. Pryaniki
    Russian spice cookies, typically made with honey and spices like ginger and cloves, often glazed with sugar icing.
  5. Medovik
    A honey cake consisting of multiple layers of thin, honey-flavored sponge cake with sweet cream filling between each layer.
  6. Chak-chak
    A Tatar sweet treat made from dough that’s shaped into balls or sticks, deep-fried, and then glued together with honey syrup.
  7. Blini
    Thin pancakes or crepes served with various fillings or toppings, such as jam, honey, or sour cream, symbolizing the sun and warmth.
  8. Halva
    A sweet, dense treat made from sunflower seeds or sesame seeds mixed with sugar syrup, popular in various Eastern European cultures.
  9. Zefir
    A type of soft confectionery made from sugar, apple puree, and egg whites, similar to marshmallows but with a lighter, airier texture.

Featured image: unsplash

Leave a Comment