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Ded Moroz (the Russian Santa) is accompanied by his beautiful granddaughter, Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden).

Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Merry Christmas!

Russian Christmas today

Most Russians celebrate Christmas today. The Russian Orthodox Church persists in using the Julian calendar for their religious observances, and since the Julian calendar is thirteen days off between 1900–2099, Christmas day falls not on December 25th, but on January 7th.

As you know, during Communist times the Soviet leaders suppressed and outlawed all forms of religious expression and celebrations, including Christmas, but the ingenious Russian population, unwilling to give up their traditional Christmas celebration, reinvented the New Year's holiday tradition.

Thus, the Nativity of Christ was replaced by an emphasis on the celebration of the winter solstice and the New Year. The Christmas tree became the yolka (the New Year tree) and Ded Moroz (the Spirit of Winter) assumed a similar commercial role to Santa Claus in America (or Father Christmas in Britain).

Ded Moroz is a tall and slender and wears a blue suit, unlike the Western Santa, although he does have a long white beard. He lives in a log house in the wooded village of Viliky Ustyug, the Vologodskaya region in northern Russia, about 500 miles northeast of Moscow.

Other differences? Ded Moroz does not fly across the rooftops on a reindeer-drawn sleigh, nor does not slide down a chimney. Rather, he travels from door to door in a troika — a decorated sleigh drawn by three horses — visiting good boys and girls, but not (take note!) the homes where the children are awake.

Ded Moroz (also known as Grandfather Frost) is accompanied by his beautiful granddaughter, Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden). Snegurochka is a beautiful young girl made entirely of snow, and she helps Ded Moroz distribute the gifts.

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Layout by imonk — January 7th, 2004.