Sunday, November 29, 2015

Дедушка Мороз - Old Man Frost

As the holiday season approaches, I thought this would be a good time to discuss the Russian gift-bringing character, Дедушка Мороз/Дед Мороз (Dedushka Moroz/Ded Moroz). This character existed as a figure of Slavic folklore who controlled/ embodied the winter (similar to Jack Frost). As christian traditions moved into Russia, the character began to take a similar role to other gift-giver characters from other regions. The popularity of Ded Moroz rose significantly in the 19th century. In the 1930s, the regime of Joseph Stalin discouraged the celebration of Christmas on the grounds that it was bourgeoise and religious. However, Pavel Postychev wrote a letter to Stalin on December 28th 1935, requesting that some holiday traditions be revived as they predate christian traditions and could be beneficial to the children. At this point, Ded Moroz was revived as a figure of the celebration of the New Year in Soviet Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the celebration of the New Year and the character of Ded Moroz remained strong in Russia itself, but in other Soviet controlled countries, was either replaced by alternate figures or abandoned entirely.
Like Santa Claus, Ded Moroz is depicted as having a long white beard, wearing red (though he wore blue in the 1930s to avoid being associated with the western Santa Claus), and giving gifts to children during the holidays. Unlike Santa, he is depicted as having a magical staff, riding a troika, wearing valenki, traveling with his granddaughter, Снегурочка/Snegurochka ("Snow Maiden", her character dates back to the 19th century), and delivering gifts on New Year's day in person rather than on Christmas eve overnight. While Santa is said to live in the north pole, Ded Moroz is said to live in Veliky Ustyug, Vologda Oblast. To welcome the new year, one can say "С Новым годом".                        

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