My Wish for the New Year: A Russian Tradition

Sergey Podlesnykh/Staff Writer

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been religiously following the Russian New Year’s Eve tradition of making a wish when the clock strikes midnight. This custom is similar to the Spanish and Latin American ritual of eating grapes, but has a more mystical aura. Each year I carefully pick one cherished wish before the magical night comes. Here’s a sneak peek at my wish ideas for this New Year’s Eve.

Before we start, let me give you a crash course in “Russian New Year’s Traditions-101.” Making a wish on New Year’s Eve in Russia is an intriguing ritual. At midnight, when the clock strikes the last twelve beats of the passing year, a window to the universe opens up, allowing you to ask higher powers to fulfill one cherished wish. 

After the first beat, it’s go-time, you can’t waste a second. The wish needs to be short and well-formulated. You must write it down on a small piece of paper, light it on fire, drop the ashes in your champagne and drink it all before the clock strikes the last beat. If you made it, the wish will be granted sometime in the New Year. It might sound like a potion-making class from Harry Potter, but it’s only weird if it doesn’t work. My wishes always came true.

So, what should I write down on that small piece of paper this year? The first ideas are somewhat selfish: my educational and employment prospects, vacation plans, including the long-awaited trip to my hometown in Russia, and the usual suspects of prosperity, health and self-improvement. All I hear is “me, me, me…” However, these selfish wishes are cheating the system. They are complex, packing the assumption of a return to normal life. 

We often blame Covid-19 for making everything worse. It feels that this virus made other problems seem smaller, irrelevant. I think it did exactly the opposite and exposed many issues we’ve been ignoring

Upon closer review, each wish translates into something different: I want to go on campus and meet fellow students and professors in person. I want businesses to operate at full capacity and unemployment to go down. I want travel restrictions to end and finally, I don’t want to deal with COVID-19 and its repercussions. 

However, even these elaborated wishes boil down to the same endgame: I want the pandemic to end. Sounds concise and only fitting, but does it provide the ultimate answer to all the issues we’re dealing with?

We often blame Covid-19 for making everything worse. It feels that this virus made other problems seem smaller, irrelevant. I think it did exactly the opposite and exposed many issues we’ve been ignoring, like racial, social, and income inequalities and political polarization. This whole time, we didn’t realize how ugly we really were and now we simply try to blame the mirror for showing us the real picture. The vaccine will come, the pandemic will eventually pass. We won’t stop being ugly by simply breaking the mirror. It’s up to us to see the obvious conclusions and make the necessary corrections.

Maybe I should remember the address of John F. Kennedy and ask; “What can I do for the country?” Perhaps, I could wish something for this nation, it surely could use a wish now. I want us to re-emerge stronger, truly united. Hopefully, the Biden administration will be able to put us on the right track, but we still have a  great deal of work ahead. We need to get more involved. We need to start  caring about our political decisions more often, and not only during the election month. It sounds like the country needs my actions more than my good wishes.

However, I do have something in mind that could be a blessing for all of us next year. I want a boring year. Not a “sit-at-home-in-isolation-for-months” boring, but rather a “nothing-to-write-home-about” boring. Many people today crave for their routine. This year, we’ve been deprived of many little things we used to take for granted before. I’m sure we will appreciate our boring and uneventful lives much more when the dust of 2020 settles.    

I hope that a boring 2021 will solve another issue for me – abundance of wish choices for New Year’s Eve. Also, I hope that it will be kind to you, granting your cherished wishes. Now you know the secret messaging channel to communicate your wishes, feel free to use it.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Alexander Naglestad on Unsplash

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