Journey to Christmas
The Journey to Christmas (Russian: ) festival is one of the biggest and most picturesque annual festivals in Moscow. This festival is a blend of the traditional and contemporary elements of Russian Christmas fun fairs. The festival is a Christmas tradition going back many years.This festival is celebrated with festive events throughout all the Moscow districts. Journey into Christmas is celebrated in 38 themed islands.
These themed islands include Royal Square in New Pushkinsky park, Island of good deeds on Trubnaya Square, Island of Bethlehem Star on Prechistenka Street, Island of masks on Kamergersky lane, Island of Masters and Island of Christmas Wonders on Nikolskaya Street, and Island of Music on Poklonnaya Hill.
Visitors can view the famous huge New Year ornaments at the Manezh Square, near the Kremlin. This place is one of the most popular attractions in Moscow. During the “Journey to Christmas” festival, the ball’s size is significantly increased. This ball is decorated with 9.5km of LED lights. This glowing ball is really a sight to behold.
There is a lot to see and do at Red Square during this season. Visitors can visit a special Christmas market which is set up on the square. Visitors can buy memorable souvenirs such as khokhloma painted toys, music boxes, scarves and a wide arrangement of other traditional Russian souvenir items. They can also purchase Christmas decorations and enjoy local delicacies. This includes Russian gingerbread, baked potatoes with mushrooms, and pancakes with caviar and mulled wine.
A visit to the Red Square is not complete if you do not visit the ice skating rink close to the GUM department store. Admission fee is between 100 rubles and 500 rubles depending on the day and time. Adults can rent a skate for 250 rubles while children can also rent skates for 100 rubles. The ice rink is open from 10am to 11:30pm. Skaters need to deposit their ID cards or 2000 rubles to be able to rent a pair of skates.
Russia’s biggest ice slide also comes alive at the Winter Fun Island. The ice slide is 7 meters high and 100 meters long. This is located between Manezh Square and Revolution Square. A special traditional trade fair also takes place next to the Revolution Square. Visitors can purchase Russian souvenirs including shawls, fur hats, music boxes, Russian nesting dolls and other touristy items.
The Gorky park is another fantastic place to visit during this festival. There is a Christmas carol quest where visitors solve puzzles, sing old Russian songs, and receive presents from fairy tale characters. Visitors can also rent skates and skate through most of the park which has been flooded with water so that it forms a nice track through the park. There is also a Christmas parade at the Gorky park.
Tverskaya park is another place you will want to visit during the Journey to Christmas festival. Throughout the park you will see a wide range of different Christmas decorations, lights, and vibrant colors. This park is known for having light shows set to music. Because of how great the display is, and how small of an area it is packed into it is also known for being crowded. Also, further away from the metro station they will have smaller displays including food and drink vendors, usually with a giant samovar on display.
Visitors can watch and participate in varied musical performances. They can also learn about musical instruments. This event takes place on the Island of charming sounds located at the theater square. Visitors can also visit the gourmet island where they get to taste a variety of popular dishes made by popular chefs in Moscow. The gourmet island stretches along the Kuznetsky street.
There are special events for children as well. Children can ride the carousel, decorate Christmas trees, and sew dolls. Visitors can also visit the Charmed Forest Island located at the Revolution Square. Visitors get to enjoy ice ballet performances including “Swan Lake”, “Snow White”, and “Nutcracker”. These performances are staged by popular Russian figure skater Peter Tchernyshev. Guests also have the opportunity to skate for free.
Visitors can also visit the Christmas Dwarf Maze located at Stoleshnikov lane buildings 2-8. They can get acquainted with the history of Russia while they take a walk through the maze. They can also visit the Little Story-teller Town where they can enjoy all kinds of sports including hockey, snowboard, and figure skating.
Admission to the “Journey into Christmas” is free. The dates vary however, it is usually between mid-December and mid-January. Everyone is encouraged to dress warm for the festival, it is a Russian winter after all. A good idea is to also bring water resistant boots or shoes with you. Even while the temperatures are below freezing you will see many puddles of water especially around Red Square.
The last thing anyone wants is to have water soaked shoes freezing your feet while you walk around the festivities.
Christmas was banned during the Soviet era and it was just a normal working day in the USSR. In 1935, Joseph Stalin declared New Year’s Day as a family holiday. This celebration led to the introduction of certain characters. This includes Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his Snow Maiden. The Snow Maiden was based on a legend about an elderly couple who had no children.
They created a little girl from snow. She became mortal and became their daughter during Winter but she melts away during Spring. Grandfather Frost is similar to the gift giving Father Christmas. Except that Grandfather Frost gives presents on Orthodox Christmas in the New Year, and not December 25th. He is aided by the Snow Maiden.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many Russians have started celebrating Christmas. However for them they celebrate on Orthodox Christmas which is January 7th. Many Russians have the entire first week of the new year off leading up to the holiday.
When Stalin outlawed Christmas, many people missed the holiday and looked for ways to sneak it back into society. They found if they renamed things disassociating it with the holiday that they could bring them back. The Christmas Tree was replaced with New Year’s Tree in many homes. Today many Russians call a New Year’s Tree, what most westerners call a Christmas Tree.