Ded Moroz

For the Russian fairy tale Father Frost, see Father Frost (fairy tale)
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Slovenian Dedek Mraz
In the culture of the eastern Slavs the traditional character Ded Moroz (Russian: Дед Мороз) plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus. The literal translation of the name would be Grandfather Frost. However, English-speakers traditionally translate his name as Father Frost.

Ded Moroz brings presents to children. However, unlike the clandestine ways of Santa Claus, he often brings them in person, at the celebrations of the New Year, at New Year parties for kids by the New Year Tree. The "in-person" gifts only occur at big organized celebrations, where the gifts can be "standardized." The clandestine operations of placing the gifts under the New Year tree still occur while the children are young. Ded Moroz is accompanied by Snegurochka (Russian: Снегурочка), or 'Snow Maiden', his granddaughter.

The traditional appearance of Ded Moroz has a close resemblance to that of Santa Claus, with his red coat, boots and long white beard. Specifically, Ded Moroz wears a heel-long red fur coat, a semi-round fur hat, and white valenki or high boots (sapogi), silver or red with silver ornament. Unlike Santa Claus, he walks with a long magical staff, does not say "Ho, ho, ho," and drives no reindeer but a troika.

The official residence of Ded Moroz in Russia is the town of Veliky Ustyug. The residence of the Belarusian Dzied Maroz is in Belavezhskaya Pushcha.

History

His roots are in pagan beliefs, but since the 19th century his attributes and legend have been shaped by literary influences. He, together with Snegurochka, were "fleshed out" from a kind of a winter sprite into what he is now. The fairy tale play Snegurochka by the famous Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky was influential in this respect, followed by Rimsky-Korsakov's Snegurochka with libretto based on the play.

Only by the end of the 19th century did Ded Moroz win a "competition" between the various mythical figures who were in charge of New Year presents: including Grandfather Nicholas, Santa Claus, Ded Treskun, Morozko and simply Moroz. Ded Moroz perfectly fits the Russian traditions, so there is a widespread erroneous opinion that he has been known to Russians for centuries.

In 1916, in Imperial Russia the Holy Synod called to boycott Christmas trees as a tradition, originating from Germany (Russia's enemy during World War I). In the Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union Christmas trees were banned until 1935 because they were considered to be a "bourgeois and religious prejudice"[1]. In 1928 Ded Moroz was declared "an ally of the priest and kulak".[2]. The New Year's tree was revived in the USSR after the famous letter by Pavel Postyshev, published in Pravda on December 28 1935, where he asked for New Year trees to be installed in schools, children's homes, Young Pioneer Palaces, children's clubs, children's theaters and cinema theaters[1]. Postyshev believed that the origins of the holiday, which were pre-Christian in any case, were less important than the benefits it could bring to Soviet children.[2] In 1937, Ded Moroz for the first time arrived at the Moscow Palace of Unions. In subsequent years, an invitation to the New Year Tree at the Palace of Unions became a matter of honor for Soviet children. The color of the coat that Ded Moroz wore was changed several times. So as not to be confused with Santa Claus, it was often blue. Joseph Stalin ordered Palace of Unions' Ded Morozes to wear only blue coats. During the times of the Soviet Union's dominance over Eastern Europe, Ded Moroz was officially introduced in many national traditions, despite being alien to them. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, there have been efforts to revive local characters.

Regional differences

There are equivalents of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka all over the former USSR, as well as the countries once in the so-called Soviet bloc.

Belarus

Dzied Maroz (Belarusian: Дзед Мароз, Dzied Maróz, literally "Grandfather Frost") is the Belarusian analogue of Russian Ded Moroz. His official residence is located in Biełavieskaja Pušča.

Unlike in Russia, in Belarus Dzied Maroz is not a traditional character and is never mentioned in national folklore. This character was introduced during Soviet times in order to replace the traditional Śviaty Nikałaj (Saint Nicholas), whom the anti-religious Soviet government considered inappropriate. Unlike Śviaty Nikałaj, who arrived at Christmas, Dzied Maroz was a New Year guest. All his habits and looks were borrowed from Russian traditions, with Belarusian ones being abandoned.

Although some people are making attempts to bring Śviaty Nikałaj back, Dzied Maroz remains a popular winter holiday character, mainly because most people are familiar with Soviet customs, and know almost nothing about older Belarusian national traditions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the person who brings gifts to kids of all religions is called Djeda Mraz in Bosnian, Деда Мраз (Deda Mraz) in Serbian and Djed Mraz in Croatian. The Croatian minority in Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, usually call him Djed Božićnjak (from the word Božić, which means Christmas). Djeda Mraz/Deda Mraz/Djed Mraz wears red clothes, just like Father Christmas, but he's not always fat.

Bulgaria

The traditional local name of Santa Claus in Bulgaria is Дядо Коледа (Dyado Koleda, "Grandfather Christmas"), with Dyado Mraz (Дядо Мраз, "Grandfather Frost") being a similar Russian-imported character lacking the Christian connotations and thus popular during Communist rule. However, he has been largely forgotten since 1989, when Dyado Koleda again returned as the more popular figure.

Slovenia

In Slovenia he is called Dedek Mraz (Grandpa Frost) and is quite different in appearance from the American Santa Claus. He is slim, wears a grey leather coat, which has fur inside and is decorated outside, and a round fur cap.

Three good old guys

After the demise of the communist regime at the beginning of the 1990s, two other good old men reappeared in public: Miklavž (Saint Nicholas) brings presents on December 6, and Božiček (Father Christmas) on Christmas Eve. Dedek Mraz is active during all of December and may top the gifts off on New Year's Eve. There are family preferences according to creed. In public the three good guys avoid conflict, they are even featured together, as friends. Dedek Mraz, due to his confessional neutrality, has retained a strong public presence.

Croatia

The name of Santa Claus in Croatia is Djed Božićnjak (from the word Božić, which means Christmas). His residence is at the North Pole and he brings gifts on Christmas Eve. Djed Božićnjak is sometimes mistakenly called Djed Mraz, which was a figure introduced during communist times in Yugoslavia, who brought gifts to children on New Years Eve. In Croatia, children also get presents on December 6. The present are brought by a traditional figure called Sveti Nikola (Saint Nicholas).

Poland

While there is no traditional analog of Ded Moroz in Polish folklore, there was an attempt to introduce him as Dziadek Mróz during the communist period. In the People's Republic of Poland the figure Dziadek Mróz was used in propaganda, since the traditional Święty Mikołaj (Saint Nicholas, the Polish Santa Claus) was determined to be "ideologically hostile", as part of the campaign against religion, which included elimination of Christmas in favor of New Year. Often officials insisted on using the figure in Polish schools and preschools during celebrations and events for Polish children, instead of Santa Claus in order to give impression of traditional cultural links with the Soviet Union. Despite those efforts, Dziadek Mróz never gained any popular support among the Polish people, and after the fall of communism he disappeared from Poland.[3]

Romania

Moş Gerilă was, in Communist Romania, a replacement of Father Christmas (Moş Crăciun), being part of the Communist offensive against religion. His name is a Romanian language adaptation of the Russian Ded Moroz.

In 1948, after the Communists gained power in Romania, it was decided that Christmas should not be celebrated in Romania. 25 December and 26 December became working days and no official celebrations were to be held. As a replacement of Moş Crăciun, a new character was introduced, Moş Gerilă (literally "Old Man Frosty"), who brought gifts to children on 31 December.

Officially, the New Year's Day celebrations began on 30 December, which was named the Day of the Republic, since it was the day when King Mihai I of Romania abdicated in 1947.

After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Moş Gerilă lost his influence, being replaced by Moş Crăciun.[4]

Germany

The Väterchen Frost ("Old Father Frost") character of German folklore is also closely related to the tradition of Ded Moroz.

France

Ded Moroz also shares some similarities with French Père Noël (Father Christmas).

Tatarstan

In Tatar language he is known as Qış Babay/Кыш Бабай (Winter Grandfather) and is accompanied by Qar Qızı/Кар Кызы (Snow Girl).

See also

References

1. ^ (Russian)Fir Markets
2. ^ Karen Petrone, Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades: Celebrations in the Time of Stalin, Indiana University Press, 200, ISBN 0-253-33768-2, Google Print, p.85
3. ^ *(Polish) Dziadek Mróz against Saint Nicholas, last accessed on 11 May 2006
4. ^ (Romanian) Amintiri cu Moş Gerilă ("Memories with Moş Gerilă"), Evenimentul Zilei, 24 December 2005

External links

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