Ded Moroz and Snegurochka: Russian Father Frost and Snow Maiden

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka: Russian Father Frost and Snow Maiden December 22, 2022

Happy New Year

​In Russia, the Julian calendar is in use so the Russian New Year takes place on January 7th. There are two characters who are essentially part of the Russian New Year celebration. Those are Ded Moroz aka Grandfather Frost and his merry granddaughter Snegurochka the snow maiden. Each New Year they arrive with a troika, a sleigh that is pulled by three horses and they give gifts for children and everyone with a gentle and kind soul. Ded Moroz is told to be 2000 years old. His birthday is on November 18th and it is believed that he lives in the city of Veliky Ustjuk in northern Russia. In Belarus Ded Moroz lives in the forest of Puszcza Białowieska, Belarussian national park. Ded Moroz is a tall old man with a white curly beard. He usually wears a fur coat that is blue, red, silver or golden and he wears a fur hat of the same colour. He has a magical staff that he uses to create snow, frost and ice. The symbol of Ded Moroz is the snowflake.

Winter Wizard

​The early Origins of Ded Moroz are in paganism and in Slavic folklore. The character that inspired Ded Moroz was a Slavic winter wizard and a blacksmith called Morozko. According to the legend, Morozko was a powerful magician. Son of the witch goddess Mara who was the ruler of seasons and Veles, god of death. Morozko was believed to be the winter blacksmith who could chain the water with his “iron” (frost). With this myth, people of the past explained the seasonal changes and water turning into frost and icicles. Like many nature spirits around the world, it was believed that Morozko was kind to those who were respectful towards him and to the spirits of the land. If humans were lazy and evil then Morozko might punish them. He would make them freeze and according to some myths, he could even kidnap children making them his slaves. Morozko could also be a friend and favour those he believed to be kind and gentle souls. In pagan times, people made sacrifices for Morozko asking him not to freeze all plants and gardens. Some of the food sacrifices were oatmeal kissel and kutya, porridge made of honey and raisins.

Ded Moroz and ST.Nicholas

​Russia became an Orthodoxian country in the 900s. Many of the folklore characters got influenced by saints and other spiritual leaders. Same way in western countries stories about St.Nicholas, the Turkish protector saint of children, the poor and sailors became another inspiration for the character of Ded Moroz. One of the reasons is that St. Nicholas is the official protector saint of the Russian Federation. By the end of the 19th century character of Ded Moroz had become a kinder and sweeter version of Morozko the winter wizard and a very popular character that was an essential part of Christmas celebrations in countless Slavic countries. After the revolution in 1917 and the start of the communist era in the Soviet Union, all religious celebrations were banned Christmas included. The character of Ded Moroz was so beloved by people that he started to visit in the New Year bringing gifts. The transformation was not too difficult because in the Julian calendar Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7th same time as the year changes. Modern Day Ded Moroz has also got influenced by the western Santa Claus / Father Christmas and according to some sources, these two are distantly related to each other.

Snegurochka The Snowmaiden

Snegurochka appeared in Russian folk tales and fairy tales first time in the 19th century. She is often told to be the daughter of Ded Moroz and each new year they bring gifts for children and good-hearted.
Visual Snegurochka first appeared in Christmas tree decorations that were hung into fir trees. She is told to be a young girl or a teenager with long blonde hair that is curly or in two braids. She has shiny blue eyes and pale skin. Snegurochka wears a white or blue dress, a jacket and a Russian cap with fur edges. Sometimes she is also described to wear a crown that is made of shining beads, pearls and icicles. In most stories, Snegurochka is told to be the granddaughter of Ded Moroz but there are also variations of the story which tell that she is actually the daughter of Ded Moroz and her mother is the Snow Queen.

Child Made Of Snow

​In a popular Russian folk tale, there was an elderly couple who were not able to have children. They lived in a small log cabin far away from other people and they were quite lonely. One day when it was snowing and the couple was gathering wood outside they remembered fun days of their youth building snowmen and they started to shape a snow girl. They gave her blue beads as her eyes, a red ribbon became the girl´s mouth and they even gave her tiny dimples. The couple looked at their creation feeling sad and melancholy. Dusk began to fall and the man and the woman cast a last longing glance at the snowgirl. Winter wizard Ded Moroz was watching them and he saw years of hard work and hopes that were not fulfilled. He took pity on them, rose his wand and the snowgirl came alive. The girl approached the couple saying “If it pleases you, I have come to be your daughter and will care for you as my mother and father”. They could have not been more surprised or happier.

Arrival Of Spring

​The couple knew that the child was not part of this world and there would be a day when she would have to leave them. Snegurochka was loved by everyone. She was kind to humans and animals alike. She loved the forest and beautiful wintry world where she spent as much time as possible. She became melancholic and sad and to cheer her up her parents took her into the town to see all the winter festivities. There she met a young handsome man who was playing the flute and they immediately fell in love with each other. One day in the woods Ded Moroz appeared in front of Snegurochka and warned her to be careful in her relationship when spring would arrive. Snegurochka did not want to listen. The young man had agreed to meet Snegurochka in the woods. On an early spring day, they met. She heard him playing his beautiful music and she was about to run into his arms but when her feet touched the bare ground that was coming out underneath the snow Snegurochka disappeared. The young man was heartbroken and the girl´s parents were devastated although they knew that this day would come. Ded Moroz had witnessed the scene and he had managed to catch the icy wind that rose when she had disappeared. He brought her spirit to the frozen lands of the north and gave back her human form. Ever since then she has been his companion. Summers they spend in the far north where snow never melts. In winter they travel all across the Slavic lands giving gifts to those who are kind and gentle like the elderly couple who wished to have a child of their own.

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