Russian New Year: Everything You Wanted to Know About Grandfather Frost
Russians love celebrating New Year and for me as a kid it was one of the favorite holidays, second only to my birthday. In Moscow New Year’s usually means snow, ice and lots of lights all over the city. Every family has their own traditions, foods and celebrations for this wonderful holiday but there are two people who are part of every New Year’s celebration:
Дед Мороз and Снегурочка (Ded Moroz – Grandfather Frost and Snegurochka – SnowMaiden).
If you are lucky – your parents can call a specail service and invite them over to your house or appartment, they usually give you presents (pre-prepared by the parents and given to Ded Moroz and Snegurochka before their arrival) if the kids recite a specail poem or sing a song. Otherwise you will see them in the kindergarten, school, Elka ( specail New Years theatrical celebration for kids) or other festive gathering.
Every house also has small figurines of these characters placed either under the tree or in a prominent place in the house.
Where Does Grandfather Frost Come From?
Grandfather Frost is kind and magical. He originated from many years of “spoken” stories that were passed from generation to generation by the Russians: tales, song, legends and fairytales about winter heroes were quite abundant.
Old Slavic people had a person called Winter Man (Зимник – Zimnik), he, as Grandfather Frost, was portrayed as an old man with white hair and long white beard. He usually had a bare head, was wearing warm white clothes and had a long metal stick in his hand. Where he would go – terrible cold weather followed.
What Does Grandfather Look Like?
The current way of dressing Grandfather Frost developed over time. According to historians traditionally Grandfather Frost is supposed to look like this:
Beard and hair – should be grey or white or silver. This does not only portray him as an old and thus wise man, but also is a symbol of happiness, luck and wealth. Amazingly, the hair has pretty much not changed at all throughout the years.
Shirt and pants – white, linen, decorated with a geometric pattern (symbol of purity). This detail is mostly lost in the modern costume for Grandfather Frost. You can see white scarves covering Grandfather Frost’s neck (which is allowable) but the pants tend to be red, to match the coat, which is not correct.
Coat – it should be long, to the ankle or longer, has to be red with silver designs, decorated with white swan down (can be substituted by white fur). Lots of modern Grandfather Frosts wear blue or even green coats, which is against the traditional attire. Shorter coat is not for Grandfather Frost but for Santa Claus.
Hat – red, covered in silver designs and pears. It is also decorated with white swan down (or white fur). It is not round but oval in shape and has no pompom on top.
Mittens – three finger gloves or mittens, also white, covered in silver deign are the symbol of the cleanliness and magic of everything that he makes with his hands. The three fingered gloves are a symbol that brings closeness to God in the ancient mythology. Red mittens are not acceptable.
Belt – it should be white with a red design, symbolizing the interconnection between the ancestors and the future generations.
Shoes – silver or red, with silver design with a raised front. There is a small hill or no hill at all. If it’ very cold her would wear valenki (special boots made out of rolled wool).
Staff– it is either silver or glass (or glass looking), very long/tall with a top that has a design that is usually silver or white. On top it usually has a stylized symbol of the moon. Nowadays such a staff is quite rare.
Snowmaiden – I do not know if any other culture have a companion to their version of Grandfather Frost, but she is very important for the Russians. She is made from snow; she is a maiden, not a girl and is dressed in white clothes. No other color is traditional for her. On her heard she usually wears a special hat that is covered in silver and pearls. She became a constant companion to Grandfather Frost in 1935 when the celebration of the New Year’s eve was officially allowed.
Where does Grandfather Frost Live?
There were many theories to that effect: North pole, Lapalandia…. Howevern in Russia in 1998 it was decided that Grandfather Frost lives in Velikij Ustug – one of the oldest towns in the Vologda area. It is situated on the north-east of the area. This town is similar in age to Moscow and Vologda and was founded in 1147.
In the pine forest fifteen kilometers away from town a house of Grandfather Frost was built. In addition to his house there are several guest cottages and places to stay, play and get entertained (sauna, swimming-pool, billiards, etc.). In the town itself you can find a Grandfather Frost’s shop, mail and museum. Ten stores in the town carry special souvenirs from Grandfather Frost.
Every year Grandfather Frosts’ house is visited by tens of thousands of tourists. A year-round program is open for tourists to celebrate the most important dates in the life of Grandfather Frost. During the last days of December he traditionally leaves his house to go visit people all over Russia, to bring presents and to visit a multitude of celebrations. At the end of March Grandfather Frost helps greet spring into town, he settles back at his house and starts working on answering the letters and preparing the presents for the next year. In the middle of June, when the town celebrates its birthday, Grandfather Frost comes out to celebrate with the town; there are many theatre plays, celebrations, festivals and other holiday activities (fireworks, food, sightseeing, etc.).
The most important thing is that kids love the fairy tale that Grandfather Frost brings with him.
Activities with Kids
To talk to your kids about Grandfather Frost and to dress him correctly you can do this fun activity with your kids:
How to Draw Grandfather Frost and SnowMaiden – older kids will find this tutorial very easy and for the younger ones you can draw yourself and then just let them color or decorate with the correct colors and siver designs. This tutorial comes from goroddetei.ru
You can also use this printout : GrandFatherFrostforColoring from www.raskraska.com to practice coloring the Grandfather Frost in the right colors.
This is lovely! It is so fun to read about these traditions, and how now you can even visit where Grandfather Frost lives!
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