Celebrating New Year in Minsk is like a Tarantino movie. You slowly start a very foreseeable evening in the kitchen or last-minute gift shopping. The plot develops at dinner time and escalates at midnight. And then it can go in any direction, depending on your mood, resources, and luck. In rare cases, you carefully recollect your lost memories after a blackout on the 1st or 2nd of January, like in The Hangover movie. In this guide, you will learn what to eat and where to go on the last night of the year in Minsk.
Get to know some Belarusians in advance or relay on your pure luck and friend-making abilities. Everything is possible; I once invited four Indonesian tourists from the factory tour to celebrate the New Year at my friend's place, and it was a blast! If you need more solid plans, try setting up a party via Couchsurfing or language learning/ex-pat community groups on social networks.
Home-parties start like a cook-show lasting from two to eight hours. Alcohol adds up fun but can result in ruining a couple of dishes. Belarusian New Year dinner must-haves are "seledka pod shuboi", caviar, "Olivier" salad, tangerines, and the Soviet Champagne. After you finish covering herring with a mixture of mayo, eggs, and beetroot for the first dish, leave it in a cold place for a couple of hours for a better taste. Red and Black caviar are ridiculously expensive: look for more affordable caviar cheese-creme options in the market.
Originally French, "Olivier" salad was adopted by Russians in the XIX century. After infinite mutations, the modern post-Soviet "Olivier" is known as the "Russian salad" everywhere except Russian speaking countries. After ten shots of vodka, this salad from peas, potatoes, eggs, meat, and mayo can become a combo of a pillow and a beauty-mask. Tangerines were first exotic fruits to appear on the Soviet tables when the USSR government was implanting the "New Year" celebration tradition after WWII.
The Soviet Union did not care too much about the intellectual property when naming its sparkling one factory, the "Soviet Champagne". After the USSR broke down, the brand became generic. All the sparkling wine companies around the eastern block are competing with each other in playing on people's nostalgia. For me, a very important part of a NY table is "Shproty" - two smoked oily sardines on a buttered slice of baguette.
After preparing all those meals, everybody gathers at the holiday table in front of the TV-set for a feast and NY musicals and comedy shows. Five minutes before midnight the broadcast is interrupted for president's speech. Use your right to choose between different presidents by switching to Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, or other channels. Make a wish for each of the last 12 seconds of the passing year. Welcome the New Year with a glass of just-opened champagne. Present your gifts to each other. Keep partying at home, switch house parties, or go celebrate outside.
If you are not into cooking for six hours and spending the last hours of the year with a bunch of Belarusian strangers in a random flat, Minsk offers alternative ways of celebration. To take part in a themed party in a restaurant or a club, you need to make a reservation from two to four weeks in advance. The price includes typically a show featuring Father Frost and his ice-cold granddaughter, some weird contests, the traditional Soviet NY food, and a set of drinks.
You can also stay outdoors. Celebrate at the Christmas market locations near the Palace of Sport and the Palace of the Republic. Consider visiting one of the Upper town bars for a warm-up. Make sure to get some champagne for the midnight and do not mind the police: this is the only moment in a year when they will turn a blind eye to drinking in the streets of Minsk. The concerts and shows keep running till 2-3 AM. It also feels like the city is under attack due to heavy firework usage. It is thrilling and can be dangerous: try to keep at least ten meters distance with the potential explosion.
Many parties without reservations start after midnight in some dance-bars and clubs like Re:Public or Doo Dah King - better check their schedules in advance. Metro and some bus routes are working all night long. Drivers congratulate the passengers. The latter ones look happy, dressed up, and carrying champagne and balloons. Will you try to add the metro party to the guide to celebrating New Year in Minsk? Just make sure to change the trains on the last stations!
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