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In Russia, New Years Eve is about more than seeing out the old year and seeing in the new one. It is the main family holiday, traditionally involving a lavish dinner and gifts.

Peter Van Dyk joined the last-minute shoppers in Moscow and he found a familiar scene.

PETER VAN DYK: Russians may shop to a different schedule, but for a growing number of people here, the experience is identical to that of millions of Americans. People in big cities like Moscow flock to vast indoor malls where Western chain outlets like Adidas, The Body Shop or IKEA sit alongside domestic stores such as Detsky Mir � Children's World � the former Soviet toy store.

(Soundbite of music)

VAN DYKE: Even the festive music comes from the West. This is a huge mall next to Kiev Station in central Moscow with five stories of shopping and an indoor parking lot. Vladimir Romanenko is buying gifts for his family.

Mr. VLADIMIR ROMANENKO: For my daughter, this was iPod Nano.

VAN DYK: Romanenko is a company manager. As well as the iPod for his daughter, he's buying gym memberships for his children and a ring for his wife. He says he hasn't gone overboard, spending around $800.

Ms. NATASHA ZAGVOZDINA (Analyst, Renaissance Capital): Every single Russian will exchange gifts. It is important that families gather together at the eve of December 31st.

VAN DYK: Natasha Zagvozdina is head retail sector analyst at Renaissance Capital Investment Bank.

Ms. ZAGVOZDINA: It's a big celebration. It's plenty of gifts being exchanged. We do take it seriously. It's one of the traditions that never went away, even in the Soviet times.

VAN DYK: The decade-long building boom that followed the collapse of communism may have stalled during the global economic crisis, but Zagvozdina says the malls that have sprung up, especially in Moscow, are changing the way Russians shop.

Ms. ZAGVOZDINA: Some people can spend three, four, five hours in a shopping mall, especially if it has an ice rink and a movie theater and a handful of good chain restaurants. It is changing the shopping habits.

VAN DYK: Russian retailers expect to bring in about 15 percent of their annual take over the New Year period. It's been a tough year-and-a-half for the Russian economy, but now many Russians � particularly those in the middle class that has grown up in the past decade � feel they have overcome the financial crisis. Most of the shoppers interviewed said they hadn't cut their spending this year.

Mr. ROMAN PEREKOV: My gift to my son was toys. So my gift to my wife was the mobile phone, some women's accessories, and for myself, I bought this ski suit, and so I'm going to travel to one of the ski resorts in Russia.

VAN DYK: Roman Perekov works in the brewing industry. He's shopping at Yevropeisky mall before flying to Siberia.

Mr. PEREKOV: I spent something around maybe $2,000 for all gifts. So, of course, it's a big amount but I planned it. So therefore, I don't have a feeling that I cut my budget crucially.

VAN DYK: Most Russians' budgets don't come anywhere near Perekov's. The average wage is about $600 a month, but spending this December is up on 2008 and retailers will be joining other Russians in celebrating a happy new year.

For NPR News, I'm Peter van Dyk in Moscow.

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