First and foremost, it is a family festivity. Often the 31st December is spent preparing the house for the night: cleaning and cooking. The tree is usually put up some time during the month. When all is done, the family sets up the table and fills it with refreshments. The number of people could vary from close family members to all the relatives in the same city to even friends and their families.
The night usually starts off with the main meal which is often either Beshparmak or Manty. Afterwards we drink tea and have fruits, salads, sweets and Baursaki. This can go on for the duration of the whole night with another helping of the meal served at a later time.
As the hour gets nearer to midnight, everyone turns their attention to the TV. Champagne is poured for all of us and children even get to have their own Kids’ Champagne (which is essentially a lemonade). A few minutes before the clock strikes 12am the president starts his speech which happens in two languages: Kazakh and Russian. He finishes just before the twelve chimes are broadcasted all over the country. Everyone cheers, clinks their glasses and drinks as we enter the New Year.
There are two ways that the children receive presents. From a young age we are all taught to believe in “Ayaz Ata” (Kazakh) or “Ded Moroz” (Russian) who brings home presents. The name roughly translates to “Grandfather Frost” who is similar to Santa Claus in appearance and has a granddaughter which usually escorts him for the festivities. Throughout December all children write letters to him to say that they were well-behaved all year and which presents they want and leave them on the windowsill. Traditionally, one of the male relatives or a hired entertainer dresses up as him on the night of the celebration. Sometimes children are required to recite poems for him to deserve their presents. However, as an alternative option some parents leave the presents under the tree the night before while the children are asleep. When all the kids in the household are old enough to have found out the truth, the tendency becomes that the family does the New Year shopping together. All presents are unwrapped after midnight.
That night is often a long one as children indulge in their new toys, puzzles, games and adults continue their chatter up until dawn. Sometimes families come outside to experience fireworks happening all over the city. Sometimes they shoot their own.
New Year is a warm family holiday shared between close people. It is a belief that whoever you celebrate your New Year with are the people whom you’ll spend the rest of the year with.