Pyatigorsk, Russia

North Caucasian Holidays: A Window Into the Region’s Soul

North Caucasian Holidays: A Window Into the Region’s Soul

If you’re planning a trip to the North Caucasus you’re probably interested to know what else you can do here apart from your main activity or tour. While classic sightseeing gives you a first impression, joining some celebrations and events allows you to dive into the local culture really deep and learn the mentality of people.

Although the typical Russian celebrations such as Maslenitsa, the Orthodox Christmas, or some public holidays are celebrated here as well, in this article we’ll be focusing on the culturally significant days in the North Caucasus region, religious holidays, patriotic occasions, or dedicated to memorable events. They are a great reflection of the multi-faceted and diverse history of this region (see our previous blog note).

The Traditional Holiday Calendar for 2020-2021 was created especially for the international travellers visiting the North Caucasus so it’s definitely the number one place to review before setting up your trip! Knowing the Caucasian hospitality traditions we’re sure that you will be warmly welcomed at any of those annual events and get the most authentic atmosphere!

Go below to see our calendar of the holiday activities for the entire year!
To search by month via computer use Fn+F3

January: New Year and Christmas celebration in the middle of nowhere

Where to celebrate the New Year and Christmas in the North Caucasus? In general, the New Year is widely celebrated throughout Russia: people attend concerts, fireworks, fairs, and many other public activities. If you’re in Pyatigorsk, head to the top of the Mashuk Mount to experience the most popular and tourist-friendly public New Year’s Eve party. People gather there every year — some with sparkling wine in hand — to watch fireworks burst over the city. 

Another great option to celebrate the New Year and Christmas in the North Caucasus is to take a vacation in the famous and fully technically equipped ski-resorts such as “Elbrus”, “Dombay”, or “Arkhyz” (read our review on Fb). Don’t miss a chance and explore the nearest authentic villages and get away from the real world to “the middle of nowhere” and get the most unusual New Year vacation!

January 1. – New Year
January 7. – Orthdox Christmas

February: Honk-Fest wild garlic food festival in Grozny, Chechen Republic

At the end of February, the exciting festival is coming to the North Caucasus! From the moment when  the air in the Chechenian capital of Grozny is full of the smell of cooking as the city residents gather for an annual Honk Fest wild garlic festival, seeking fun and health. About 20’000 people are coming from the different corners of the Caucasian region and from overseas to sample wild garlic dishes, take part in workshops, and watch traditional dancing. Wild garlic has a lot of vitamins. It definitely boosts your immunity, has a beneficial effect on your overall health and well-being. We’re sure that everyone who’s taking part in this festival becomes a bit healthier. Come and try!

Date: varies between the end of February and the beginning of March

March: Holiday of spring “Nowruz-bairam” in Makhachkala, Dagestan

There’s something to do in the North Caucasus in March too! Novruz is one of the most important holidays in Dagestan that begins on the spring equinox on March 21. and lasts for 13 days. Come and see the festivities in Derbent city held beside the mosque. All the visitors will be invited to take part in traditional contests: to bring out a tray of boiled eggs and to compete to see who will have the egg with the strongest shell. At the holiday you will see national theater performances playing a scene depicting a traditional marriage proposal — it is considered good luck if you make a marriage proposal at Nowruz. And don’t forget to try pilaf, of course — cooked over an open fire.

Also in March:

  • Balkar people revival day.
    Where: everywhere throughout the Kabardino-Balkar Republic.
    What’s special: Gala-concerts, fairs, and exhibitions.
    Date: March 28.

April: The Day of the Adygh’s Flag in Republic of Adyghea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay–Cherkessia

Here’s the next annual event in the North Caucasus. On April 25, all Adygh people throughout the Caucasus celebrate The Day of the Adygh’s Flag. On that date, local people organize horse passes, car rallies, Adyghe dance games, sports, and other festive events. Adygh’s Flag is going to be everywhere!

Date: April 25.

Also in April:

  • The city celebration.
    Where: Magas, Ingushetia.
    What’s special: Open public events, fairs, and markets.
    Date: April 15th.

May: The grand opening of fountains and the summer season in the Caucasian Mineral Waters region

One of the most fascinating traditional celebrations in the North Caucasus takes place in Pyatigorsk, Yessentuki, Kislovodsk, and Zheleznovodsk. This is The Grand Opening of Fountains that combines three elements: culture, recreation, and sports! You’ll see solemn processions, a large-scale historical reconstruction of the medieval battle, excursions, and much more. Don’t forget to throw a coin into the fountain for good luck on your return visit! The celebration that takes place in the middle of May will also surprise you with concerts, bright shows, workshops, and even the retro-train that goes between these 4 cities.

Date: a weekend in the middle of May (varies)

Also in May:

  • Shashlyk (BBQ) Festival
    Where: Grozny, Chechen republic
    What’s special: The festival dedicated to all kebab/BBQ lovers! Tastings allow you to try meat dishes cooked over an open fire. The exciting “Cooking Battle” is a competition of the best cooking-teams from the North Caucasus republics, as well as other foreign countries.
    Date: the beginning of May (varies)
Image source

June: Festival of Breaking the Fast, the Republics of Chechnya and Dagestan

Let’s check what is the main traditional celebration in the North Caucasus in June! Certainly, Festival of Breaking the Fast is the most important holiday in Islam which marks the end of Ramadan fasting. Сelebrations to mark the end of the month of Ramadan are held in the Republics of Chechnya and Dagestan. The festivities take place in the Mosques, on the main squares where a whole program with master classes for children and adults, along with dance performances and degustation of national dishes is organized. Be sure, the holiday is celebrated in wide city areas, where anyone can take part!

Also in June:

  • Pyrotechnic festival “PyroFivePeaks”
    Where: Yessentuki
    What’s special: the festival brings together professionals from different countries.
    Dates: 3 days in the beginning of June.
  • The holiday of tightrope-walkers
    Where: Tsovkra-1 village, Dagestan (may vary)
    What’s special: Dagestan tightrope walkers are renowned the world over. You have to see it yourself! It’ll be absolutely spectacular!
    Dates: 3 days in the beginning of the month

July: The Khetag Day, Vladikavkaz

Every year, residents of North and South Ossetia celebrate the Khetag Day in the Vladikavkaz grove of Khetag. This place is considered sacred among the Ossetia people. Residents of the Republic are coming there with traditional three pies to pray in the holy place and ask for well-being and health. You can join the famous Caucasian holiday and try those warm pies, milk, and honey as a local!

Date: the second Sunday of July

August: Kurban Bayram “Eid al-Adha” or Feast of the Sacrifice, Kabardino-Balkaria

Kurban Bayram is known as the Sacrifice holiday and is a major event in the Islamic calendar. Stop by Nalchik in Kabardino-Balkar Republic or Magas in Ingushetia and check out local markets. You’ll see so many of them! A salesman will please every guest with a little present: an apple, an extra brush of grapes or holiday food. After a good meal come to the main squares and take a picture at the open-air holiday activities. You’ll definitely love the North Caucasus holidays!

Also in August:

  • The Day of the Karachai Horse.
    Where: Uchkeken Village, Karachai-Cherkessia Republic.
    What’s special: You’ll see authentic Karachai Horses, enjoy professional horse races, horse ridings and games, and much more.
    Date: in the middle of August.
  • The city celebration.
    Where: Yessentuki.
    What’s special: Open public events, fairs, and markets.
    Date: the last Saturday of August.

September: Grape harvest in Dagestan

A most attractive proposition for traveling in September in the Caucasus! You want to know why? The answer is grapes! Grapes ripen from August to November — depending on the variety. The peak of the harvest occurs in September, and at this time the sunny berry in the markets costs a mere penny. You can try white, pink, black grapes, or even ladies’ fingers grapes. We only wish we could eat summer goodies all year long! Add warm sea sunny weather and you will realize that there is nothing better than the September velvet season in the Caspian.

Also in September:

  • The city celebrations.
    Where and when: Nalchik — September 1., Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk — the second Saturday of September, Vladikavkaz — date varies, Makhachkala — the fourth Sunday of September.
    What’s special: Open public events, fairs, and markets.
  • Hot Air Balloon Festival.
    Where: Zheleznovodsk / Pyatigorsk / Yessentuki (varies).
    What’s special: an unforgettable show of dozens of air-balloons performed with musical accompaniment.
    Dates: in the middle of September (varies).

October: A festival of Ayran in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic

If you’ve never heard about Ayran, you can imagine it as a type of buttermilk but a very special one. It was invented centuries ago somewhere in the high Caucasus mountains and was one of the clues to the long life there. So its recepie was kept in secret for a long time! If you want to try real Ayran, don’t go looking for it in stores, but rather come to the Honey Waterfalls in Karachay-Cherkessia for the Ayran Festival and try this drink from fresh milk and sourdough, which is passed from mother to daughter in every Karachay family. At the traditional North Caucasus festival, Ayran is cooked in huge cauldrons, so that all guests will get enough. Apart from that you’ll have an opportunity for horseback riding, visiting a small zoo, and for a nice selfie in front of beautiful waterfalls.

Also in October:

  • The city celebration.
    Where: Grozny, The Chechen Republic.
    What’s special: Open public events, fairs, and markets.
    Date: October 5.
  • Wine Festival.
    Where: Kislovodsk
    What’s special: Wine and cognac tasting, winemaking lessons, and a large fair of the beverages and local foods.
    Date varies.

November: The beginning of drying meat season, throughout the Caucasus

A long time ago, when there were no freezers, the highlanders stocked up dried meat and sausage for the winter. Usually, the drying season began in late autumn when the appetite wakes up. The farmers leave the best chunks for themselves, but you can also find something to eat in the market or fairs especially if you take the advice of a travel expert like us 🙂 We’ll find out what to do in the Caucasus even in cold November.

Also in November:

  • National Holiday called Dzheorguiba.
    Where: North Ossetia Republic
    What’s special: It is a special time for everyone in Ossetia due to a week-long celebration. Every family cooks a lot and it seems to be the best time to be a guest there. This ancient celebration is dedicated to Uastirdzhi who’s the patron of men and all travelers. Dzheorguyba also symbolizes the end of the agricultural season.
    Date: in the middle of November.

December: Caucasus ski season opening

At some places, mountains are covered with snow in November, but the official opening of the winter season at the Caucasian ski resorts traditionally happens in December. Enjoy the winter in the most popular “Arkhyz” resort as well as in “Elbrus”, “Cheget”, “Dombay”, “Armkhi” and “Tsei”.

The North Caucasus is indeed a unique place that carefully preserves the national traditions and holidays deeply rooted among local people where old traditions are passed on from generation to generation.

Adventure.Dream.Team. is here to guide you through the all-year-round activities in the North Caucasus and show how a visit to that diverse region promises a trip of a lifetime!

We hope this blog gives you some inspiration and handy tips to go and chase your own adventures in the North Caucasus. Travel is the best kind of education so go get lost, even if it’s just outside your own doorstep!

Yours,  Adventure.Dream.Team.

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