Survival guide: How to get through the May holidays in Russia

The main place where the Russians go on vacation in May is dacha to grill shashlyk.

The main place where the Russians go on vacation in May is dacha to grill shashlyk.

Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
No country in the world celebrates the May holidays as broadly as Russia. This is the second festive Russian marathon in terms of importance, duration and possible harm to the liver after the New Year holidays. And you need to prepare for it in advance.

1. In Russia, they say the "first May" (May 1 – Labor Day, followed by days off on May 2 and 3) and the "second May" holidays (May 9 – Victory Day, preceded by days off on May 7 and 8). Previously, there were no workdays between them, and everybody in Russia was on vacation for as much as 10 days in a row.

2. It’s almost a tradition that Russians now prefer to take a vacation for the remaining workdays. So if you work in Russia, we advise to hurry up, lest your colleague should get ahead of you. The alternative is to languish in the office in splendid isolation, being fully aware that sending business emails and arranging meetings in early May is absolutely meaningless. In any case, you will get responses to letters no earlier than May 10.

3. During the first really warm days, Russians prefer to get away from the big cities, so not only pedestrians but also vehicles disappear from the streets. The May holidays is a short time when the Moscow roads are suitable for driving. That is, you can really drive, instead of sitting in a traffic jam.

4. Even before the crisis, the main place where the Russians went on vacation in May was the dacha (the Russian version of a country house with a plot of land) to grill shashlyk – Russia's BBQ.

This is a real ritual: the meat should be cut, marinated, impaled on skewers and only then grilled, and this must be over coals.

The ability to cook shashlyk is a huge source of pride for every Russian man; each has his own special secret recipe for the marinade for the shashlyk, which he will never reveal.

5. The dacha's main feature is a vegetable garden. Every self-respecting Russian has a vegetable garden where he grows his own potatoes, carrots and onions to show off to the neighbours.

The warm days of May are the best time to tidy up the vegetable garden after a long winter. The work usually involves the whole family: Dad digs and the children weed, often supervised by the grandmother – the unchanging keeper of the garden. So don’t be surprised if you’re handed a shovel too. But then you will be treated to homemade pickles or jam.

Russians start dacha season. Source: Vladimir Smirnov / TASS

6. If you are still unlucky enough to leave to the country for the May holidays – don’t be discouraged. You can see a lot of interesting things in Moscow too. But be prepared for your usual routes to be changed: Closer to Victory Day, many cities are starting to rehearse for parades, closing the entire center, so look for announcements in the media and select detour routes. Have you noticed that another lane has appeared, colored yellow, on the main roads? And already tried to drive in it? Don't – this lane is for tanks.

7. By the way, if you wake up on the morning of May 9, look out the window and see a tank rolling outside and warplanes in the sky, don't get scared. This is how Russia celebrates Victory Day. It’s a good idea to go for a walk around town late in the evening – typically, the year's most beautiful fireworks are launched at 22:00 at different points of the city (in Moscow, these are Red Square, Poklonnaya Hill, Sparrow Hills and many others).

Read more: A virtual tour of the dacha>>>

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