In the world of global public relations, there are always two key logistical matters to keep in mind when communicating with international offices and media: time zones and holidays. It’s easy to do a quick internet search to discern the current time in another country, but holidays are another matter.
Most of us are aware of the major holidays in each country, such as Ramadan in the UAE, Thanksgiving in the U.S., Boxing Day in Canada, Christmas in the UK and New Year’s Eve throughout most of the world. These are the holidays we strategically avoid when planning any media announcements or events in foreign markets. But Russia is where it gets a bit tricky, especially with the winter holidays.
Getting the dates right: As a mostly Christian country – Russian Orthodox, to be specific – Russia does celebrate Christmas. But I was surprised to learn this celebration doesn’t take place on December 25th as it does in much of the Western world. Instead, the Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th (per the old Julian Calendar as opposed to the Gregorian Calendar adopted by other religions), and comes at the tail end of a 10-day holiday that begins with New Year’s (this year’s official public holiday runs from December 30 – January 8). When December 25th comes around, you’ll be able to find businesses operating as usual in Russia, except for the many expats who take advantage of celebrating two Christmas holidays!
Understanding local customs: When compared to Christmas, New Year’s is the more important holiday for most Russians. During the decades of Communism that suppressed religion, and in turn Christmas, many Christmas traditions were preserved by shifting them to the New Year’s celebration, such as decorating trees and giving gifts, leaving Christmas as a mostly religious holiday. Even Father Frost and his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden, hand out gifts to children on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas Eve! (This also means I have a New Year’s tree in my flat as opposed to a Christmas tree).
If your client has a story for Russian media and wants a holiday tie-in, think carefully about which of our two winter holidays is the right fit.
Amanda Belcher is a Fellow for Edelman in Moscow, from Washington, D.C.
Photo by SergeyRod