Halloween in Russia

by Elena on October 31, 2011

halloween in russiaХэллоуин (Halloween) in Russia is a contentious affair, becoming more popular with younger people but still gaining criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite having its roots in Samhain, a Gaelic festival that was thought to mark the end of summer and a period where the line between the dead and the living was thin enough for spirits to pass between the two worlds, Halloween has become much more of a commercial institution in recent decades rather than any superstitious attempt to ward off evil spirits trying to return home.

On your city tour in Moscow or St.Pite’s you are likely to see people dressed up for Halloween, and even the odd carved pumpkin adorning a front porch. Your Ulko Tours guide may even have the inside scoop as to where the best Halloween parties are taking place in Moscow or St.Pite’s, and where to find a costume. The non-Christian origins of Halloween, and a number of other celebrations and festivities, such as Valentine’s Day, that have grown in popularity in Russia has prompted calls by the Orthodox Church to ban them outright and force school children, and the general population, to pay closer attention to traditional Russian holidays.

Is Halloween Banned in Russia?

Some Moscow schools have apparently enforced a ban on Halloween, whereas others often at least give a nod to the occasion with celebratory Halloween cookies or something similar. The festival is more popular with the twenties and thirties crowd however, with hardly a soul trick-or-treating on Halloween but many using it as an excuse to dress up like a zombie and walk the streets in search of a bar with some Halloween drink specials. Many Halloween Night parties are scheduled, including live music, DJs, and spooky cocktails along with competitions for the best costume, just as in other European cities and across the US. The presence of non-Russians in the major cities is likely contributing to the increase in Halloween celebrations as we have come to expect graceful Morticias, Freddie Kruger lookalikes, and the Bride of Chucky walking down the street on October 31st each year.

russian halloween dolls matryoshka

New Russian Halloween ‘Traditions’

The recent adoption of Halloween as an event to celebrate in Russia means that most people are still trying to work out what is traditional, leading to some truly bizarre happenings on Halloween in Russia. Corporate Halloween parties are a rarity but increasing in popularity and there are often scripted costume dramas to go with these. One such outline includes a staged brawl followed by a costumed Halloween strip-tease and then a fireworks display to round off the evening. Not quite a traditional pumpkin carving with door-to-door trick-or-treating by the kids. It can be quite difficult to get hold of Halloween costumes in Russia too, although women will likely find it easier than men (and may wish to look in lingerie shops who sometimes rig up a dedicated Halloween section at this time of year!). It is, oddly, quite easy to find a Halloween costume for your dog should you wish to send him or her trick-or-treating for Halloween in Russia.

No Trick-or-Trreating

The Orthodox Church in Russia still sees the occasion as a glorification of evil however and many older Russians find the celebration distinctly unpalatable. Russian parents of small children rarely let them out to trick-or-treat on Halloween and even if children do brave the cold (that’s where the mummy outfit might prove useful!) there are unlikely to be many householders providing buckets of candy for outstretched hands.

russian halloween event poster

Halloween is a Political Issue in Russia

Russian politicians have even waded in on the issue of Halloween as one State Duma member (Russia’s lower house of parliament) has been pushing a bill against the destructive influences of the West, with the intent of safeguarding the ‘moral and spiritual upbringing’ of the nation’s youth. Somehow Halloween has become a bone of contention with heavy political overtones, especially given the relationship between Russia and Georgia and the social issues concomitant with this conflict in the former Soviet Republic.

There are those in Russia who think that the modern Halloween is a sign that people have given up on Christian values and started worshipping Satan instead, but for most young people living in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or other Russian towns and cities October 31st is just a great reason to dress up, meet with friends, and celebrate being alive. Halloween in Moscow schools may have been prohibited by the Department of Education in 2003 but the posters and flyers for Halloween parties shows that the celebration continues to grow in popularity. So be careful on your tour of Moscow or St.Pite’s on Halloween as you may run into a zealous zombie, or a wayward werewolf, don’t worry though, your Ulko Tours guide will be neither, we promise.

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McJagger Yomomma September 25, 2013 at 7:28 pm

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