New Year Celebrated in Russia
When I was a child I truly believed in Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). I knew that if I behaved well throughout the year, Ded Moroz would give me lots of cool presents.
Along with the American Santa Claus and the English Father Christmas, Ded Moroz resides in the North Pole, or according to some, in Lapland, and gives presents to little children. Unlike his Western counterparts, Ded Moroz visits Russian homes on New Year’s Eve and leaves presents under the fir tree. He doesn’t travel alone. His granddaughter (aka Snegurochka) accompanies him from one household to another as Ded Moroz is quite old and fragile. Besides, his enormous sack full of presents is too heavy to manage on his own.
Apart from flying across Russia, Ded Moroz and Snegurochka have to visit children at school functions or just by turning up at their homes. These two have a hectic schedule around New Year. Ded Moroz has a very long bushy beard which means you can hardly make out his face. He either wears a red or navy floor-length robe coupled up with a stick to cast magic or help him walk. Arm in arm, Snegurochka follows her granddad everywhere dressed in a baby blue robe complemented by a crown-like furry cap. Here’s a picture of a typical Ded Moroz and Snegurochka travelling together on New Year’s Eve.
Ded Moroz and Snegurochka visited my household too. I remember my parents giving vodka to Deduska in exchange for presents. And I tried to impress Ded Moroz with the number of poems I knew. Reciting poems to this duet is very traditional in Russia. Parents put their offspring on a little stool resembling a pedestal from where the nervous children recite the hard-learnt poems.
Children like to dress up for New Year. I was always the Snow Queen, but others chose to be any character from a snowman to a fox or a pirate.
New Year is celebrated on the night between December 31 and January 1. Being a kid, I loved New Year as it was the only time I was allowed to stay up until midnight. Then you turn on Channel 1, the clock chimes 12 and you listen to the President’s speech with a champagne glass in your hand (no champagne for me obviously). After mid-night people come out onto the streets, light up fireworks and shout “Happy New Year” to one another.
On January the first, I would get up and burst into the sitting room to see what Ded Moroz had left me under the Christmas tree. While parents were asleep, I got to play with my new toys and eat lots of chocolate and oranges.
It didn’t take me long to realise that Ded Moroz and Snegurochka were simply mum’s friends doing her bidding. And that’s why she had to offer them vodka and salads. They were probably entertaining me for free. I don’t think I was too upset to learn Ded Moroz was fictitious. What it really meant to my 5-year-old self was that I was no longer a kid who believed in this silly stuff. In my view, this was exactly how you became an adult.