Tourism and recreation
The Chukchi
© RIA Novosti. Sergey Guneev

The New Year celebrated by indigenous peoples of the North

The New Year is celebrated on December 31 worldwide. Russians will welcome the New Year 11 times, once for each time zone, Kamchatka being the first, and Kaliningrad the last. But some people in Russia celebrate the New Year on other days. The portal features a review describing when and how the indigenous people of the north celebrate this holiday.


The Chukchi celebrate the New Year on the winter solstice, typically on December 21. This holiday is named after the ritual star, Pegytti (Chukchi for ‘diverse stars'). In traditional astrology, it means Altair in Aquila. The rising of this star symbolizes the beginning of the New Year, as the length of daylight starts to increase from this day.

Traditionally, the Pegytti holiday started with making a festive fire with a sacral fire plank, a symbol of a hearth. Each family has its own plank. There was a belief that the fire from the plank must be only passed on through male lineage, otherwise misfortune will come to the family.

The Chukchi danced and chanted around the sacrificial fire, and wished everyone kindness and light.

In addition, the Chukchi tried to gain the favor of the evil spirits by filling small leather cups with bacon and fat. Pegytti should be welcomed with a positive mind, so the coming year will bring good luck.


The Evenkis celebrate the New Year on the summer solstice. The traditional Evenki holiday of welcoming the new sun is called Khebdenek (translated ‘having fun').

The elders pray for forgiveness to the spirits on this day; they make a sacral fire and perform a purification ritual with juniper smoke. Each family ties a patch on a tree branch and makes a wish, which is supposed to come true in the new year. The Evenkis believe that the doors between worlds open on the summer solstice, which helps people send their wishes to the spirits.

Traditionally, the Evenki dance in a circle, thus seeing off the old sun and welcoming the new sun.

Two New Years

The Nenets people celebrate two New Years, a winter and a summer one, starting in November and June, respectively. The winter New Year begins with the freezing of water and rutting reindeer, while the summer holiday is marked by melting of snow and reindeer calving.

On the New Year, the elders try to gain the favor of the spirits, so that winter will be calm, the rivers will be filled with fish and the forests will be filled with game. Like the Evenkis, the Nenets people make wishes and tie ribbons on birch trees, their sacral trees.

The Nenets give presents to each other and pay much attention to the children on this day. They believe that the good spirits can get angry and leave them if they offend a child.


The Yakuts celebrate the New Year in summer, on June 21. Yysakh (translated as ‘plenty') is related to the worship of the sun idols and fertility. The holiday is traditionally accompanied by ritual prayers, folk dances and sporting contests.

The day's main dance, Osuokhai, is a circular dance symbolizing the circle of life. The Yakuts thank the Sun for light and warmness by dancing until sunrise. They believe that everyone who enters the circle is inspired by positive energy for the upcoming year.

Another important Yysakh ritual is sprinkling fire, grass and trees with koumiss, the sacral Yakut drink. This rite symbolizes the birth of the Universe and man.

Pomor New Year

According to the Pomor calendar, the New Year arrives on September 14. This day is marked by the opening of the Margaritinskaya Fair, a festive procession of Pomor boatmen (‘vozhi') and fireworks. Lighting the New Year floating Beacon, a symbol of seeing off the old year and the arrival of the New Year, is one the holiday's most exciting events.

Traditionally, the Pomors did not lock their huts on this day, so that new happiness can enter their homes. An old broom was laid near the entrance to symbolize the outgoing year.