On December 20, 1699, Russian Tsar Peter the Great issued an order for the New Year to be celebrated on January 1 according to the Julian calendar – transferring Russia from the year 7208 to the year 1700.
Before that in Russia, this festival had been celebrated on September 1, based on the ancient chronology from the creation of the world. Peter the Great admitted that this change was due to his passionate desire to lead the chronology and the countdown to the New Year from Birth of Christ - in line with the European fashion.
One historian gives amusing details of how the Tsar reassured those boyars who doubted his decision and argued that there was no way God could have created the world in the middle of winter. According to American historian Robert Massie, Peter I offered his skeptics to have a look at the globe and calmly explained to them that Russia was not the entire world, and that when it is winter here, summer prevails on the other side of the equator.
The decree, signed by Peter the Great on this day, stated that “Fir tree, pine and juniper branches and trees shall be used to decorate houses and gateways along main streets; salvos shall be fired from small canons and rifles, projectiles launched, and other lights lit as many as possible…” As a sign of joy, it was made obligatory to congratulate each other on the New Year and the start of the new century. In addition, the Tsar commanded that the New Year festivities were to be held for seven days. Arrangements provided for by the decree were embodied accurately, especially since the Tsar personally checked them.
The celebrations ended on January 6 with a procession of the cross. Contrary to the old custom, the Tsar did not follow the clergy wearing a rich costume, but stood on the bank of the Moscow River in a uniform, surrounded by the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky army regiments.
In February 1918, after the October Revolution, according to Lenin's decree, the Julian calendar in Russia was substituted by Gregorian calendar and all dates of the year were moved forward by 13 days as the result of it. Today many still celebrate the “Old” New Year on January 14 as well as the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar.