С днём рождения, Дед Мороз!
November 18th is an important day in russian culture. On this day in Russia they celebrate Ded Moroz’s birthday.
But who is Ded Moroz? Let’s talk about him!
He is indentified as the Western Santa Claus, but, although they have a lot in common, they are not the same figure.
They both bring delight to children as they provide the little ones with gifts, but the real difference between these two characters is about their origins.
The figure of Ded Moroz has been transformed over the years. He found his origins in russian folklore: he was a pagan god of the Eastern Slavs. His connotation was not really positive, since he was a winter wizard or demon.
This character come out of legends and myths that tell us about his enormous powers of freezing everything and everyone around him. He symbolises Russian winter frost, portrayed as a blacksmith who bounds water into ice.
However, his actions in freezing everything sometimes had positive purpose: it was the only possible way to defend Russia from advancing enemies.
Nowadays his image has undergone many changes: modern Ded Moroz turned in a kind, gentle and caring human being, which is closer to western Santa Claus.
He is usually accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka. The “Snow girl” is a special addition that sets the story of Ded Moroz apart from similar winter holiday icons and she is essential for Ded Moroz’s image.
We don’t really know the origins of this character; there are a lot of tales about her and her origins. One of them tells us about a happy couple with the only big wish: having a baby.
…“A long time ago in the forests of Russia there lived a peasant by the name of Ivan with his wife, Maria. Although they loved each other very much and had many friends, they were unhappy because they had no children.
One winter day, they watched the village children build a snowman. « Let’s build a snowman, too!, » said Ivan. And they proceeded to craft a pretty little maiden out of snow. Struck with their creation, Ivan said, « Little snowmaiden, speak to me. » Maria exclaimed, « Yes, come to life so you can romp and play like the other children! » Before their very eyes, Snegurochka became a real girl. « I have come from the land of winter, ice and snow, » said the little girl. She ran and hugged them. There was joyous singing, dancing and celebrating in the village that night. All that long Russian winter Snegurochka romped and played with the other children. Everyone loved her. She, Ivan and Maria were very happy.
Then one day, when the first signs of spring appeared, Snegurochka came to Ivan and Maria, and with tear-filled eyes told them that she must go away, up North to the land of snow. They begged her to stay. Upset, Ivan jumped up and shut the door to the hut so the snowmaiden couldn’t leave, and Maria hugged her tight. But as she held the little girl, the child melted away. Ivan and Maria wept bitterly.
All spring and summer they were lonely. Summer turned into fall and fall into winter and once again it was cold and icy outside. One night a familiar voice was heard. « Mother! Father! Open the door! The snow has brought me back once more! » Ivan threw open the door and Snegurochka ran into their arms. All that winter she lived with them and played with the other village children. But in the spring she had to go back North, whence she had come. This time Ivan and Maria did not weep, knowing she would return once more when winter appeared on the land. And so it was that the snowmaiden brought warmth and joy to Ivan and Maria during the long, cold, Russian winter for many, many, many years.”
However, nobody knows for sure where Ded Moroz comes from, as every mythological figure, but nowadays he founds his permanent home in the ancient town of Velikij Ustyug, a small country 1000 km northeast far from Moscow. There tourists can meet him and visit his wonderful house.
Since 2005, in Russia they celebrate Ded Moroz’s official birthday on November 18th. In this period of the year everything begins to freeze, this is the reason why scientists chose this day: they claim that this is the day when the major part of the country’s territory is already covered with permanent snow, especially in the Northern part of Russia, so that this is definitely the perfect time for ded moroz’s birthday, since his name means “Grandpa frost”.
The figure of Ded Moroz is a fundamental character in Russian culture.
He symbolises not only the most popular celebration, as Christmas and New Year, but he appears during the whole winter period as he symbolises winter frost.
He is really popular in Russian culture: you can find a lot of souvenirs with his images, most of them are represented in the tradiotional matrioshkas.