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Ded Moroz (Russian: Дед Мороз, diminutive Dedushka Moroz Russian: Дедушка Мороз; Ukrainian: Дід Мороз Did Moroz) is a fictional character who in some Slavic cultures plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus. The literal translation of the name would be "Old Man Frost", although the name is often translated as "Father Frost" in light of the modern usage of "ded" to refer to a grandfather. Ded Moroz is said to bring presents to children, however, unlike the secretive Santa Claus, the gifts are often delivered "in person", at New Year's Eve parties and other New Year celebrations.
The "in-person" gifts usually occur at organized celebrations at kindergartens or schools and at circus performances around New Year time where the gifts can be standardized. Various agencies provide Ded Moroz visits to families and offices. In such cases specific gifts can be chosen for particular members at the parties. The clandestine placing of gifts under a New Year tree occurs when a Ded Moroz visit is not arranged for some reason.
Depictions of Ded Moroz commonly show him accompanied by Snegurochka (Russian: Снегурочка, Ukrainian: Снігуронька, "Snow Maiden"), his granddaughter and helper, who is often depicted in long silver-blue robes and a furry cap or a snowflake-like crown. She is a unique attribute of Ded Moroz; no traditional gift-givers from other cultures are portrayed with a similar companion.
The traditional appearance of Ded Moroz resembles that of Santa Claus, with his coat, boots and long white beard. Specifically, Ded Moroz is often shown wearing a heel-length fur coat, a semi-round fur hat, and valenki or jackboots on his feet. Unlike Santa Claus, he is often depicted as walking with a long magical staff. In Ukraine, Ded Moroz rides a sleigh that is pulled by three reindeer.
The official residence of Ded Moroz in Russia is considered to be the town of Veliky Ustyug. The traditional residence of Did Moroz in Ukraine is considered to be the Rivne region. The residence of the Belarusian Ded Moroz (Dzied Maroz in Belarusian) is said to be in Belavezhskaya Pushcha.
Development of the character
The earliest tales of Ded Moroz presented him as a wicked and cruel sorcerer, similar to the Old Slavic gods "Pozvizd"—the god of wind and good and bad weather, "Zimnik"—god of winter, and the terrifying "Korochun"—an underworld god ruling over frosts. According to legend, Ded Moroz liked to freeze people and kidnap children, taking them away in his gigantic sack. Parents were said to have to give him presents as a ransom in return for their children. However, under the influence of Orthodox traditions, the character of Ded Moroz was completely transformed, later adopting certain traits from the Dutch Sinterklaas (or Saint Nicholas), the prototype of Santa Claus.
Since the 19th century the attributes and legend of Ded Moroz have been shaped by literary influences. The fairy tale play Snegurochka by the famous Russian playwright Aleksandr Ostrovsky was influential in this respect, as was Rimsky-Korsakov's Snegurochka with libretto based on the play. By the end of the 19th century Ded Moroz had become the most popular of the various mythical New Year gift-givers in Russia.
Following the Russian Revolution, Christmas traditions were actively discouraged because they were considered to be "bourgeois and religious". Similarly, in 1928 Ded Moroz was declared "an ally of the priest and kulak". Nevertheless, the image of Ded Moroz took its current form during Soviet times, becoming the main symbol of the New Year’s holiday that replaced Christmas. Some Christmas traditions were revived following the famous letter by Pavel Postyshev, published in Pravda on December 28, 1935. 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. In 1937, a man playing Ded Moroz arrived at the Moscow Palace of Unions for the first time. Joseph Stalin ordered Palace of Unions' Ded Morozes to wear only blue coats, so that they would not be mistaken for Santa Claus. During Stalinist times, Ded Moroz, Snegurochka (or "Snow Maiden"), and New Year Boy were featured in Communist-type Nativity scenes, or public appearances, with Ded Moroz as the equivalent of Joseph, Snegurochka as the equivalent of Mary, and the New Year Boy as the equivalent of the Christ child.
During the period of the Soviet Union's dominance over Eastern Europe, Ded Moroz was introduced to many nations. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, there have been efforts to revive local characters.
Ded Moroz in modern Russia
Ded Moroz is very popular in modern Russia. In 1998, the town of Veliky Ustyug in Vologda Oblast, Russia was declared the home of the Russian Ded Moroz by Yury Luzhkov, then Mayor of Moscow. Between 2003 and 2010, the post office in Veliky Ustyug received approximately 2,000,000 letters from within Russia and from all over the world for Ded Moroz. On January 7, 2008, then President Putin of the Russian Federation was reported to have visited Ded Moroz' residence in the town of Veliky Ustyug as part of the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve celebration.
The western Santa Claus made inroads in the Russian Federation during the "turbulent" 1990's when many western ideas such as liberal democracy and market-oriented capitalism were considered panacea solutions for Russia. The resurgence of Russia in the early 21st century brought about a renewed emphasis on the basic Slavic character of Ded Moroz. This included the Russian Federation and subordinate governments sponsoring courses about Ded Moroz every December, with the aim of establishing appropriate Slavic norms for Ded Moroz and Snegurochka ("Snow Maiden" - Ded Moroz' granddaughter) roles for the New Year holiday. People playing Ded Moroz and Snegurochka now typically make appearances at children's parties during the winter holiday season, distributing presents and fighting off the wicked witch, Baba Yaga, who children are told wants to steal the gifts.
Ded Moroz, and on occasion the Belarus Dzied Maroz, are presented in the media as being in on-going détente with various counterparts from other cultures, such as the Estonian Santa Claus (Jõuluvana or "Old man of Christmas"), the Finnish Santa Claus (Joulupukki or "Yule Goat"), and other Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and Saint Nicholas figures. The détente efforts portrayed have included one-on-one meetings, group meetings and friendly competitions, such as the annual November Santa Claus championships of Celle, Germany.
GLONASS Tracks Ded Moroz
In November 2009, for the first time, the Russian Federation offered competition to NORAD Tracks Santa with GLONASS Tracks Ded Moroz, which purports to use GLONASS (GLObal NAvigation Satellite System or “the Russian GPS”) to track Ded Moroz on New Years Eve (according to the Gregorian Calendar).
The Russian language website (a language not currently offered by the competing NORAD Tracks Santa) includes these features: "real-time tracking" of Ded Moroz, "news" of Ded Moroz throughout the year, a form to send e-mail to Ded Moroz, photos, videos, streaming audio of Russian songs, poems and verses from children's letters to Ded Moroz, information on Veliky Ustyug in Vologda Oblast (considered to be Ded Moroz's hometown) and opportunities to enter competitions and win prizes.
In Armenia, Ded Moroz is known as Ձմեռ Պապ ("Dzmer Pap"), which literally means "Winter Grandfather".
In Azerbaijani, Ded Moroz is known as Şaxta Baba ("Grandfather Frost") and his companion Snegurochka is known as Qar Qızı ("Snow Girl"). In the predominantly Muslim but secular country, where Christians are a very small minority, this tradition remains very popular. Şaxta Baba brings gifts to children at New Year celebrations, however Qar Qızı is rarely present at the festivities.
The original traditional Bulgarian Christmas related male figure is Koledari. This later changed with the growing popularity of Santa Claus around the world during the 19-th and the 20-th century. The Bulgarian name of Santa Claus 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.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Djed Mraz was labeled Communist and Djed Božićnjak (literally: "Grandfather Christmas") was introduced. Attempts were made in the mass media and advertising to replace Djed Mraz with Djed Božićnjak. After 1999 the names of Djed Mraz and Djed Božićnjak became more or less synonymous, including in their use on public television. In some families Djed Mraz is still said to brings gifts at New Year.
In Croatia, children also get presents on December 6. The presents are said to be brought by a traditional figure called Sveti Nikola (Saint Nicholas) who closely resembles Djed Mraz or Djed Božićnjak, except for the fact that he is accompanied by Krampus who takes misbehaving children away.
In socialist Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) the character who was said to bring gifts to children was called "Grandfather Frost" (Bosnian: Djed Mraz, Croatian: Djed Mraz, Macedonian: Дедо Мраз (Dedo Mraz), Serbian: Деда Мраз (Deda Mraz), Slovenian: Dedek Mraz). He was said to bring gifts for the New Year as celebration of Christmas was discouraged by the Communist regime.
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. Communists, opposed to religion in general, considered Christmas and traditional Święty Mikołaj (Saint Nicholas) "ideologically hostile". Therefore, propaganda attempted to replace him with Dziadek Mróz (literal translation of Ded Moroz). Authorities often insisted on using the figure in schools and preschools during celebrations and events for children. This was also supposed to create an illusion of cultural links with the Soviet Union.
In 1948, after the Communists gained power in Romania, it was decided that Christmas should not be celebrated. December 25 and December 26 became working days and no official celebrations were to be held. As a replacement for Moş Crăciun (Father Christmas), a new character was introduced, Moş Gerilă (literally "Old Man Frosty", a Romanian language adptation of the Russian Ded Moroz). He was said to bring gifts to children on December 31.
In Slovenia the name Ded Moroz was translated from Russian as Dedek Mraz (literally, "Grandpa Frost"). Dedek Mraz is depicted as a slim man wearing a grey leather coat, which has fur inside and is decorated outside, and a round dormouse fur cap. This version of the character is based on traditional imagery, especially as depicted by Maksim Gaspari. Initially he was said to live in Siberia, but with the Informbiro crisis and the schism between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union his home was relocated to Mt. Triglav, Slovenia's (and also Yugoslavia's) highest peak. The notion of Grandpa Frost was ideologically useful because it served to reorient the December/January holidays away from religion (Saint Nicholas Day and Christmas) and towards the secular New Year.
After the demise of the Communist regime at the beginning of the 1990s, two other "good old men" (as they are currently styled in Slovenian) reappeared in public: Miklavž (Saint Nicholas) is said to bring presents on December 6, and Božiček ("Christmas man") on Christmas Eve. St. Nicholas has had a strong traditional presence in Slovenian ethnic territory and his feast day remained celebrated in family circles throughout the Communist period. Until the late 1940s it was also said in some areas of Slovenia that Christkind (called Jezušček ("little Jesus") or Božiček ("Christmas man")) brought gifts on Christmas Eve.
Slovenian families have different preferences regarding their gift-giver of choice, according to political or religious persuasion. Slovenian popular culture depicts Grandpa Frost, Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus as friends and has also started blending attributes of the characters, for example, mention of Santa's reindeer is sometimes mingled into the Grandpa Frost narrative at public appearances. Due to his non-religious character and strong institutionalization, Grandpa Frost continues to retain a public presence.
Grandpa Frost is known as Did Moroz (Ukrainian: "Дід Мороз") in Ukraine. The roots of the Did Moroz tradition in Ukraine go back to pre-Christian (pre-988 AD) tribal traditions of Kievan Rus, which after the Baptism of Rus became Christianized as part of the Christmas tradition.
Until early in the 20th century, it was a customary ritual in Ukraine to call out and invite Moroz (Frost) to the Christmas dinner to eat the traditional dish of Kutia. This tradition was later secularized in the atheistic Soviet Union as the calling of Did Moroz to the New year celebrations. There has been a moderate revival of traditions after Ukraine achieved its independence in 1991.
In the past, Father Frost would bring gifts to Ukrainian children on 19 December with a colorful celebration, but he now does so on the Christmas date. Traditionally, Christmas was a more somber event for reflecting on the birth of Christ.
In Tajikistan the tradition of Ded Moroz has continued, despite its origins in Soviet propaganda. In Tajik, Ded Moroz is known as Boboi Barfi ("Grandfather Snow"), and Snegurochka is called "Barfak".
Ayaz Ata is the Kyrgyz name for Ded Moroz.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ded Moroz|
- "Just Don't Call Me Santa!"—A history of Ded Maroz in English
- "Father Frost, the Red Nose" on Russia Info-Centre
- Reveling in Russian Santa’s fairytale home
- Home page all of the Ded's Moroz (Russian)
- GLONASS Tracks Ded Moroz (Russian)
- Coat of arms of Ded Moroz(Russian)