When someone asks me my plans for the New Year, I usually laugh out loud before they do.
See, my family has never been like the others in my neighborhood.
Our conversations are primarily focused on food, and evenings are spent watching Russian soap operas where no one seems to understand what is happening.
Our evenings are filled with our grandparents remembering communism.
And, better yet, our mother giving us valerian root (the common Russian tradition of using herbal medicine to treat anxiety) when you’re stressed.
Celebrating the New Year becomes even more of an entertaining story.
The evening is usually spend at home eating the equivalent of three Thanksgiving dinners (we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so we leave the calories for New Year), and watching the usual concert held every year with the same faces and outfits.
Russian-speaking families are a rare breed, and my family definitely has some quirky habits.
But hey, better weird than boring, right?
So, here are seventhings only kids from Russian-speaking households would understand, and others can laugh about:
1. The first thing you must do when you step inside someone’s house is take off your shoes.
Growing up, I always thought it was my mother’s obsession with cleanness that required guests to take off their shoes when stepping into the house.
Yet, I found that this is actually common practice in all Russian households.
Ironically, the host will even provide you with a pair of slippers (or “tapochki” in Russian), as you’ll risk freezing your ovaries off if you don’t.
This is apparently the real and direct consequence of walking around barefoot, according to any Russian mother.
Actually, any ailment is the direct consequence of not wearing your slippers.
2. You were raised believing a dozen superstitions.
Whistling indoors = whistling your fortune away.
Forget something? = look in the mirror.
Giving flowers in even numbers = bad luck.
It all sounds ridiculous if you give it a second thought, but any Russian speaking household would swear by these rules.
3. Caviar isn’t fancy, it’s actually pretty standard.
While red caviar, made from salmon roe, is generally associated with luxury and wealth, it is less costly in Russia because of the vast harvest of the fish off the country’s eastern coast.
4. Birthdays always entail very long calls from relatives.
This has basically been a ritual during every one of my birthdays.
Relatives from across the world willkeep you on the phone for hours during which they wish you literally every single positive thing that you could wish someone.
To be polite, you do the same in return, andyou spend another 10 minutes attempting to say goodbye.
5. There is almost always a big pot of soup in the fridge.
This would 99 percent of the time be the color red, filled with vegetables, beetroot and sometimes meat. Aka, the traditional Russian soup called borscht.
The rudest thing you can do is not offer a guest anything to eat.
This is why it’s best to come hungry to a Russian household.
They’ll make you eat everything they possibly have in their kitchen.
6. What anxiety? You have a special Russian medicine box.
“Take a valerian root!” screams my mother over FaceTime during exam week.
Russian households generally have enough herbal medicine to open their own pharmacy, as alternative medicine has been embodied in our culture for generations.
7. Every New Years Eve involves the New Years concert on TV.
Every single year, Russia holds not just anyconcert, but the concert of the year.
The same faces sing the same songs, as Russia’s music industry is generally monopolized by a few ancient faces and their grandchildren.
And in a way, this has become my tradition.