Ded Moroz is a Russian character in a similar vein as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and St. Nicholas. His name translates to”Old Man Frost” or “Grandfather Frost”. Ded Moroz has a very similar appearance to Santa, except he tends to be depicted as wearing blue with snowflake embroidery, having a wizard’s staff, and unlike his counterparts has a female companion. His female companion is his granddaughter Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden.
Ded Moroz and Snegurochka travel the countryside giving gifts to children, originally around Christmas time. However, with the rise of communist Russia, Christmas, a religious holiday was greatly frowned upon and Ded Moroz was seen by the communist leaders as a type of children’s god. Because of this, Ded Moroz and Snegurochka were no longer celebrated at Christmas, but instead, the custom changed to the New Year, a secular celebration. Since then Ded Moroz and Snegurochka have been leaving gifts for children on New Years Eve night to be found in the morning.
Ded Moroz has his roots in Slavic mythology. Ded Moroz is thought to originate from a winter wizard, demon, and blacksmith called Morozko. Morozko was the son of Velez the god of death and the underworld and Mara a witch goddess who ruled over the seasons in Slavic mythology. Morozko was the personification of Winter and had the ability to freeze water through his winter-blacksmithing. The ancient slavic pagans would make offerings to Morozko to spare their crops and to encourage a less harsh wintertime.
Ded Moroz, unlike most Santa figures, doesn’t come with a Krampus-like companion as most do around Europe. Ded Moroz embodied both archetypes – the benevolence and wrath of wintertime. While Ded Moroz gifts those who are good hearted and respect the land and its spirits, he would punish those who didn’t along with those who were lazy or cruel. His punishments would range from killing crops with frost, freezing people to death, or kidnapping children to make them his slaves.