Christmas in Russia – Ded Moroz

We are all aware that celebrations vary from country to country, but one that sticks out for its unique nature is the Russian figure of Ded Moroz (literally “Grandfather Frost”).

He was a legend of folklore for many years as a dark and wicked figure who stole children and would demand presents from the parents to return them. Time heals all wounds and public images, so he eventually came to personify the benevolent spirit of winter (along the lines of St. Nick in Western traditions) and instead gave children gifts according to the calendar of the  Orthodox Church. These gifts correspond to either the New Year’s celebrations or Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar, which takes place on January 7.

Also, he officially supplanted St. Nick and any other icons of Christmas in 1917, when Stalin banned all other representations. Part and parcel of this is that he was subsequently exported to all other Soviet bloc countries and is still a presence to this day.

Here are some highlights of the figure of Ded Moroz:

  • He is traditionally shown in a blue coat, as ordered by Stalin to not be confused with Santa Claus.
  • He delivers his presents door to door while the children sleep.
  • He is accompanied by Snegurochka (“Snow Maiden”), his granddaughter and assistant.
  • He drives a troika with no animals and does not have a famous laugh or phrase.