After wrapping up 2015 and looking to the year ahead, it’s important for advertisers to be aware of important dates that will ultimately impact campaigns, special promotions, and traffic throughout the year. The biggest holiday in Russia, the New Year, has already passed us by, but there are a number of other important days to keep in mind as 2016 pushes forward. Russian Search Marketing is outlining some of the biggest days and time periods for marketers to note for 2016 in this Russian advertising calendar. While most of the dates are set, some like Easter vary from year to year so we are providing you with specifics for 2016.
In this blog post, we present you with a month-by-month look at the Russian advertising calendar. The calendar below does not just make note of official Russian holidays, of which there are eight. Other important dates are also described, whether they be traditional religious holidays or relatively recent creations. The official holidays are marked in red, while the other important dates are highlighted in blue. Knowing the specific holidays in Russia can help predict consumer behavior, as one can assume when certain items will be popular around certain days…people are probably not searching for Father Frost decorations in the middle of July but flip flops for their summer vacation.
Winter in Russia
Winter is a very busy time in Russia, especially as two of the biggest holidays occur within a week of each other; New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas. Every winter month has a special holiday that drives queries for gifts, flowers, and celebrations. These holidays offer great opportunities to run special promotions and campaigns. When it comes to travel, January is a popular month for Russians to take extra vacation days following the weeklong celebration of the New Year and Christmas.
New Year, January 1-5: This is the biggest holiday in Russian, and officially Russians are given five days to observe it. However, in practice many Russians simply continue their holiday to the 7th and the weekend beyond, as the 7th marks Orthodox Christmas, which is also an important holiday. The New Year is usually rung in with a large feast the night before, before the president delivers an address to the nation at midnight, and the adults then begin their celebrating. Children awake the next morning to find presents under the New Year tree, brought by Father Frost. Christmas is a more subdued affair, but is also celebrated with a large meal the night before, as well as a visit to the church for services.
Old New Year, January 14: This is January 1 in the Julian calendar, which Russia used before the Russian Revolution and which the Orthodox Church continues to use. Though not officially a holiday and not celebrated as widely as the New Year, it is still common for many Russians to commemorate the Old New Year.
Epiphany, January 19: In the Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. Westerners may be familiar with how the day is celebrated in Russia from news stories about Russians plunging into cross-shaped holes cut into frigid waters. The practice is done in many Eastern Orthodox countries to cleanse one’s soul.
Russia February 2016
Valentine’s Day, February 14: As noted in the past by RSM, Valentine’s Day is not just a romantic day in the West. In the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become common for loved ones to exchange gifts with one another. However, Valentine’s Day in Russia still has some way to go before becoming the consumer behemoth that it is in the United States.
Defender of the Fatherland Day, February 23: This official holiday is a celebration of those serving in the Russian Armed Forces and those who have served, with a particular focus on men. Men of all ages are usually given small gifts. This day can be considered the Russian equivalent of Father’s Day.
Russia March 2016
Maslenitsa, March 7-13 (last week before Lent): This is essentially a festival of eating in the week leading up to Lent. The name is derived from the Russian word for butter, and common traditions include eating copious amounts of pancakes and partaking in fun activities and games.
International Women’s Day, March 8: Women’s Day began as a political protest in favor of women’s rights, usually promoted by socialist movements in Western countries. The day was turned into an official holiday in Russia following the Russian Revolution, and it became a prominent day for celebrating women in the Soviet Union and in other socialist countries. Today, the day is celebrated in Russia in a fairly similar manner to Mother’s Day in the United States.
Spring in Russia
While the holiday season in spring is not celebrated with quite as much shopping as during the winter, it is still a time of some of the most important holidays in Russia. Cities across Russia commemorate World War II with large parades, with Moscow and St. Petersburg staging the most impressive displays. Labor Day is celebrated earlier than in the United States and with quite a bit more fanfare, and this year it shares the date with Orthodox Easter. The holiday period and the first weeks of May mark spring vacation time for most Russians who take a few days off work to extend their holidays and travel. Russians also start to plan their summer travel and begin engaging in more outdoor activities. Russians typically plan their travel a few months in advance and book approximately one month out from their trips.
Russia April 2016
April Fool’s Day, April 1: April Fool’s Day is celebrated in Russia in the same manner as in elsewhere in the world, with people using the day to play planks and engage in general tomfoolery.
Cosmonautics Day, April 12: The Soviet government took great pride in the success of the space program, and a special day was created to commemorate the first ever manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin. The day is still celebrated with a procession through Moscow that passes by some of the most important sites commemorating Soviet space travel, including Gagarin’s Red Square tomb.
Russia May 2016
Easter, May 1: Since the Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, Easter falls on a later date than it does in Western Christianity. As in the West, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition to attending church services, the day is usually commemorated by decorating eggs, in a manner similar to what is done in the West. As with many holidays in Russia, Easter is celebrated with a large dinner with traditional dishes.
Spring and Labor Day, May 1: This international holiday celebrating the working class traces its origins to the 19th century, but in Russia it was not until the Soviet era that it truly became a national phenomenon. Across communist Eastern Europe, Labor Day was commemorated with huge public celebrations and workers parades. Though celebrated with less fanfare today, it remains an important holiday in Russia.
Victory Day, May 9: Few countries suffered the scale of devastation the Soviet Union did during World War II (known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia), and the country’s hard-fought victory over Nazi Germany became a critical element of the post-war psyche. As a result, Victory Day became one of the country’s most important holidays, and it continues to be in post-Soviet Russia. While events celebrating the victory and commemorating the casualties of the war take place across the country, the most notable is a massive military parade in Moscow.
Last Bell, May 25/end of May: This is the last day of class for many schools across Russia. The day is usually celebrated with a formal ceremony, with the students dressed in formal attire. This day does not necessarily mark the end of the school year; students still have to complete exams.
Russia June 2016
Russia Day, June 12: One of Russia’s newest holidays, this day celebrating the Russian nation was created in the early 1990s. However, the holiday did not begin to gain much traction until the 21st century, and even today many Russians do not celebrate the holiday with much fanfare. Rather, the most notable celebrations are public, such as concerts and ceremonies in the major cities of Russia. The Russian flag takes on a particular prominence during Russia Day.
Summer in Russia
There aren’t any specific dates to note in July and August but this is a popular time for Russians to take vacations. Some Russians travel to their dachas, while others go abroad. Advertisers should expect a bit less internet traffic in general but lots of searches in months leading up to these vacations for accommodations, plane tickets, and seasonal clothing purchases. The period marks an important time for back to school prep and shopping.
Russia September 2016
Knowledge Day, September 1: This is traditionally the first day of class in Russian schools. Schools usually celebrate the beginning of the new school year with special ceremonies, and with all the fanfare this is typically not a day for formal learning. It is common to see scores of young children trekking to school with bundles of flowers in hand, since it is customary for pupils to present their teachers with flowers on the first day.
Fall in Russia
The holiday season is not especially eventful during the fall in Russia. The only official holiday is one of Russia’s newest and remains an obscure day for most Russians. The holiday shopping season begins at the tail end of fall, and in recent years Black Friday has signaled the beginning of it, despite the day before being just a normal Thursday in Russia.
Russia November 2016
National Unity Day, November 4: One of Russia’s newest holidays at just over a decade old, Unity Day commemorates the ousting of Polish forces from Moscow in a November 1612 battle. The name is a reference to the people from all social strata in Moscow who united to fight the occupying forces in Moscow. Many Russians are still unsure of how to celebrate Unity Day, which essentially replaced a Soviet holiday on November 7 that commemorated the October Revolution. Flowers are usually laid at the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky in Moscow which honors the battle.
Black Friday, November 25: As noted in a previous post on RSM, Black Friday is no longer just an American shopping phenomenon. Even though Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Russia, increasing numbers of retailers are taking part in Black Friday promotions. Cyber Monday (November 28) has also become a major shopping day in the country in recent years.
Russia December 2016
Shopping season begins: December marks the beginning of the busiest shopping season in Russia, as it is when most Russians do their shopping for New Year’s. The month as a whole is a busy time for shopping, but the week leading up to New Year’s is an especially frenzied time for last minute shopping.
New Year’s Eve, December 31: As explained earlier, New Year’s is the biggest holiday in Russia, and Russians usually begin celebrating with a large dinner on New Year’s Eve.
Based on this Russian advertising calendar, advertisers in the travel industry should ramp up their efforts for the January, May, and summer travel. Russian eCommerce players should take note of the special holidays to run campaigns for holiday shoppers and seasonal shoppers prepping for vacations and styles for different weather. Russians have different shopping patterns based on their location and what is available to them. For different holidays, remember that Russians’ have their own traditions and celebrations. These cultural differences will ultimately impact your ads and should be taken into consideration when creating campaigns. Take for instance, these tips and tricks for Women’s Day campaigns as a guideline for the details to consider for your Russian online advertising in 2016!