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 or Russian Christmastide celebrations and traditions customarily observed during the winter holidays. This festival celebrating Russian culture is one of the best ways to enjoy Moscow if you travel there during this time.

What is the Russian Winter Festival?

The Russian Winter Festival in Moscow is a major cultural festival celebrated on an annual basis with more enthusiasm every year and is a unique Moscow winter activity for travelers. Events at Izmailovo Park and the more central Revolution Square have featured performances of traditional Russian song and dance, games, crafts, food, and more. The Christmas Village at Revolution Square is an excellent source for Russian Christmas gifts – traditional folk crafts, including nesting dolls, wooden toys, and painted boxes are sold here, as well as Christmas ornaments and traditional winter-weather wear like shawls and valenki.

At Gorky Park, winter activities like ice skating can be enjoyed.

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 sculpture, take troika rides, and play games. Ded Moroz and Snegurochka 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 sculptures, like a giant ruble coin that appeared in 2009 and a valenki felt boot the size of a human being in 2008. In 2007, a large-scale ice chess game took place between Moscow and London, which also typically hosts a Russian Winter Festival. 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 here, and they're sure to be larger than life.

Some activities at the festival hearken back to Russian days of old but have yet to become passe. 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 past-era activities: three horses attached to a sledge stand in for a typical horse and carriage. This cultural particularity has been immortalized in images of Russian folk art, movies, paintings, and more.