Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ded Moroz and Snyegurochka

Due to the suppression of religion during the Soviet regime, St. Nicholas was replaced by Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost, the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts on New Year's. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, the Snowmaiden, who helps distribute the gifts.

However, unlike the secretive ways of Santa Claus, he often brings them in person, at the celebrations of the New Year. The "in-person" gifts only occur at big organized celebrations, where the gifts can be "standardized." The clandestine operations of placing the gifts under the New Year tree still occur while the children are young. Ded Moroz is accompanied by Snegurochka (Russian: Снегурочка), or 'Snow Maiden,' his granddaughter. She is a unique attribute of the image of Father Frost – none of his foreign colleagues has a similar companion.

The traditional appearance of Ded Moroz has a close resemblance to that of Santa Claus, with his coat, boots and long white beard. Specifically, Ded Moroz wears a heel-long fur coat, a semi-round fur hat, and white valenki or high boots (sapogi), silver or red with silver ornament. Unlike Santa Claus, he walks with a long magical staff, does not say "Ho, ho, ho," and drives no reindeer but a troika.

The Christmas tree (Yolka) is yet another tradition banned during the Soviet era.To keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year's trees, instead. Since ornaments were either very costly or unavailable, family trees were trimmed with homemade decorations and fruit. Yolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. The custom of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great, after he visited Europe during the 1700's New Year Eve instead of Christmas
Few people in Russia remember, but when the communists took power in 1917 they banned the open expression of religion. While it was easy to pray at home, the Russian people were concerned about giving up their traditional Christmas celebration.

But where there is a will, there is a way!

They re-invented the New Year's holiday tradition to include a decorated tree, and introduced a character called "Grandfather Frost." Known as "Ded Moroz," Grandfather Frost looked very much like the western "Santa Claus" or "Pere Noel" - except he wore a blue suit.

We found costume of Snyegurochka in a local store. I hope to purchase it for the little one.

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