Moscow's Russian Winter Festival

A giant Christmas ornament sculpture at Moscow's Winter Festival.
andreiossovski0 / Pixabay / Public Domain

Moscow's Russian Winter Festival coincides with other Winter Festivals across Russia, but due to its popularity and the city's resources, the Moscow version of the Russian Winter Festival is a huge event, running from mid-December to mid-January. This festival takes advantage of Russian Christmas, Russian New Year, and Svyatki (Russian Christmastide) celebrations and traditions customarily observed during winter.

This festival celebrating Russian culture is one of the best ways to enjoy Moscow if you travel there during this time. You'll find Russians traveling to Moscow too. The attraction is the over-the-top ice sculptures, entertainment, and events.

The Russian Winter Festival

The Russian Winter Festival in Moscow is a major cultural festival celebrated on an annual basis with more enthusiasm and bigger events each year. Visiting Moscow during Winter Festival is an ideal time to go to experience Russian culture. Events at Izmailovo Park and the more central Revolution Square feature performances of traditional Russian song and dance, games, crafts, food, and more.

The Christmas Village at Revolution Square is an excellent place to shop for Russian Christmas gifts including traditional folk crafts like nesting dolls, wooden toys, and painted lacquer boxes. It's a great place to find unique Christmas ornaments and traditional winter-weather wear like shawls and valenki, traditional felt boots.

At Gorky Park, you can go ice skating or watch people play hockey. There's even cross-country skiing if it snows. Ice sculptures are a draw at the park.

What To See and Do

Besides sampling Russian traditional wintertime foods, like bagels, jam, and tea, visitors to the Winter Festival in Moscow will be able to view Russian ice sculptures, take troika rides, and play traditional games. Ded Moroz, Old Man Frost, and Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, make appearances at the Winter Festival, too. The city sparkles with decorations that light up the night, and New Year's trees contribute to the festive atmosphere.

Past Russian Winter Festivals in Moscow have included displays of large, culturally significant ice sculptures. Over the years, the ice sculptures have included animals, cathedrals, a giant valenki, and an enormous ruble coin. There's a large-scale ice chess game that takes place between Moscow and London, which also hosts a Russian Winter Festival. The huge chess pieces, carved from ice, are a tradition with both festivals.

Other features of the Winter Festival in Moscow, like fur fashion shows and balalaika concerts, draw diverse crowds. You never know what aspects of Russian culture you'll encounter, and the displays are sure to be larger than life.

Some activities at the festival hearken back to Russian days of old but are still present in today's culture. Sledding, with or without snow, is a favorite game at the Moscow Winter Festival. Swings, replicas of those used in 16th-century Russia, are also put to use.

A troika ride may be one of the most exciting of the old-fashioned activities: three horses attached to a sled replace the warm-weather horse and carriage. You've seen the romantic Troika and beautiful horses in Russian folk art, movies like Dr. Zhivago, and paintings.

Winter in Russia can be dark but the Winter Festival lights up Moscow and creates an exciting, happy time in the middle of a cold season with short days.