It’s impossible to imagine New Year’s celebrations in Russia without Ded Moroz and Snegurochka. With the sprinkling of the first snow, you start to see them everywhere: presents, candy boxes, holiday postcards, movies – all feature the red-cheeked, white-bearded kindly old man and his fairytale-like granddaughter who together create the so-needed festive spirit even way before the night when the magic happens. Their figurines take a rightful place under holiday trees at Russian houses, and their residence in Veliky Ustyug welcomes everyone eager to meet the real miracle-makers.
Name: Ded Moroz aka Grandfather Frost
Attributes: big bushy beard, red (or blue, or any other color) fur hat and coat, warm mittens, magical walking stick, valenki, and bag of gifts
Description: Ded Moroz is the main character on the winter holiday stage in Russia. Just like Santa Claus in America, Père Noël in France, or Weihnachtsmann in Germany, he is the jolly gift-giver who, however, traces his roots to Slavic mythology. Ded Moroz as we know him today has come a long way from his predecessors, among which are a pagan wizard of winter, the ancient snow demon Morozko, and the third-century saint St. Nicolas.
There is no way you will ever mistake him for someone else. Similarly to his colleagues, Ded Moroz wears a floor-length coat and a hat, normally in red or blue and lavished with fur and winter-inspired embroideries. Out of the traditional garments, he often opts for matching mittens and valenki. His silver or crystal walking stick is topped with a star or a snowflake and is the source of his magic. Together with his companion Snegurochka, he travels across Russia on a troika, a traditional three-horse carriage. And just as the song has it, each of the horses symbolizes a certain winter month.
Name: Snegurochka aka the Snow Maiden or Snowy
Attributes: white or blue fur garment, white boots, mittens, and a kokoshnik
Description: First made popular by the 19th-century play The Snow Maiden by Alexander Ostrovsky, Snegurochka quickly became everyone’s favorite and joined the celebration. As Ded Moroz's right-hand person, she helps him bring the holiday cheer into every home. This unique character became an indispensable part of Russian New Year’s traditions over the last century and has no analogs in other cultures. Young and beautiful, Snegurochka is a traditional Russian beauty with crystal-blue eyes and long fair braids. Her traditional attire includes a silver-blue robe with white fur trim and ornaments, white boots, a fur hat or a kokoshnik – a semi-round or snowflake-like headpiece.
Other possible companions:
- Forest dwellers: hares, birds, squirrels, bears, and many others;
- The symbol of the Chinese New Year (in the case of 2022 – a tiger);
- New Year’s tree: the centerpiece of any living room that fills the entire home with a festive fragrance and houses gifts.
There’s so much more to learn about Russian traditions. Embrace the true spirit of the upcoming holidays and celebrate them in the Russian way with our finest stories on everything from how to get your holiday table ready to what to do to make your next year even better.