These are the traditional figures of the winter holiday season, Ded Moroz (‘Grandfather Frost’) and his helper/granddaughter Snegurochka ('Snow Maiden’). Pay attention to the differences in the appearance of Ded Moroz and Santa Claus. Yes, the red color is now beginning to predominate under Santa Claus’ influence (probably via Hallmark cards marketed to Russia). You may also notice that Ded Moroz is rather tall and not known for being a “chubby old elf,” that he wears a robe (not a jacket), with a sash (not a black belt), and that his cap does not have a tassel. Also, we’ve never seen Santa Claus with a staff, have we? None of these differences are surprising, since Ded Moroz is not Santa Claus! He has his origin in Morozko, the folkloric embodiment of the Moroz, 'the Frost,’ ( i. e., the cold), and he has traditionally been associated with the New Years season, not Christmas, which comes later (January 6-7). There are no elves, no Mrs.Claus, and no North Pole workshop. (He does, however, have an estate in Veliky Ustiug, in the Russian North). Snegurochka also comes from Russian folklore.
Ded Moroz (rus. Дед Мороз “Grandfather Frost”, aslo known as Морозко (Morozko), Студень (Studen’) or Трескунец (Treskunets)) — one of the most well-known characters of slavic folklore, a personification of frost and cold. He was often portrayed as either little silver-haired old-man or a stately giant. Regardless of his appearance, however, Morozko always carries his magic staff, which helps him to freeze objects and create blizzards and severe frost. There are numerous tales and stories about Ded Moroz freezing people to death if they dared to whine on the bad weather in his presence. At the same time, those who met him and blessed the frost despite feeling cold were given generous presents. People believed that “feeding” Moroz with pancakes and bread during the Svyatki season (a series of festivities in slavic tradition during orthodox Christmas celebrations) would please him and persuade not to be too severe with the weather. The image of Ded Moroz as a kind old-man giving presents on the New Year night was formed only in the beginning of XX century and has a little in common with the original character.
Jack Frost is the personification of frost, ice, snow, sleet, and freezing cold weather.
Although there is some kind of variant of Jack Frost amongst different cultures, it is genuinely believed to have originated from Nordic or Anglo-Saxon roots. Jokul Frosti was the son of a wind god, and had control over the winter forces.
In Russia, he is portrayed as Grandfather Frost.
In Germany, the entity is female, and is known by Mother Hulda who lived in the sky and created snow by dropping white feathers from her bed.
During the 19th century, Jack Frost had been characterised to be sprite-like. Due to this, he was depicted to be small and of young age, either a young adult or a teenager. He may also have white hair, blue clothing, and icicles adorning his body.
However, often at times before he was depicted as an old man with a white beard.
He is commonly shown as a mischief-making spirit, carefree and happiest when he can behave as he pleases. Although he is said to be a friendly spirit, he can be very dangerous if one were to insult him - he will bring death by smothering them with snow or turning them into frost.
He is traditionally thought to leave the frosty, fern-like patterns on windows on cold winter mornings, as well as frostbites. He is sometimes described or depicted with paint brush and bucket colouring the autumnal foliage red, yellow, brown, and orange.
Wait...Ded Moroz isn't a version of St. Nick/Santa Claus?
Nah. They have a lot of cosmetic similarities, including a white beard and (sometimes) red and white robes, but they have different provenances and origins.
Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) has his origin in a pre-Christian Slavic winter wizard rather than Saint Nicholas (who is/was himself very popular in Russia) and was in fact pushed to prominence by the Soviets as a non-religious alternative to Saint Nicholas (at which point the main gift-giving holiday was moved from the religious Christmas to the secular New Year’s).
He might have been a little Santa Claus-ified to compete with the popularity of the American dude, but that has happened to a lot of gift-giving figures from around the world, including the Yule Lads and Olentzero, neither of which have origins in common with Santa.
And while I’m on the topic of Ded Moroz, I want to clear something up that I saw on Facebook (and I did not correct a stranger about it, so please send any and all medals to my PO box). This:
is NOT Ded Moroz. This is Chys Khan, a similar but distinct figure from Yakutia in Siberia. He is…a mammoth? Look, there are not a lot of resources about him in English. Anyway, here are the two of them together to show you that they are not the same:
Christmas in Russia has always been a time of giving. So I am going to celebrate this joyous occasion by giving ISIS some of my favourite heavy ordinance, delivered courtesy of the Russian Air Force. Hey, do not forget to congregate in open spaces, you guys, so I can make sure that everybody gets some. Merry Christmas, from The Boss Of All Russia!
RUSSIAN SANTA LOOKS SO MUCH COOLER THAN WESTERN SANTA. AND SOMETIMES HE WEARS BLUE. BLUE, YOU GUYS. BLUE IS MY FAVORITE COLOR. I WANT SANTA TO WEAR BLUE. PLUS, LOOK AT THAT GANDALF BEARD AND EPIC FROST-WIZARD STAFF!! LOOK AT IT!!!! ALSO, THE LITERAL TRANSLATION FOR HIS NAME IS “GRANDPA FREEZE” GRANDPA FREEZE SOUNDS SO MUCH COOLER THAN SANTA CLAUS.
In Russia Christmas is celebrated on January 7th (the Eastern Orthodox Christmas). The commercial version, with a “Santa” figure and a tree is celebrated on New Years. This version is completely secular and came to exist during the time of the Soviet Union and still remains true today.
So while I did not grow up celebrating Christmas, ever. I do know what it is like to have a tree and decorations and a “Santa” figure.
So to me, New Years was always special, there was food, dancing, a tree and decorations, musical numbers, and of course Grandfather Frost and his Granddaughter the Snow Maiden came and went, delivering presents and bringing the New Year respectively.
As you may know, not all gift-bringers come at Christmas. Some come December 6, December 13, or January 6. Here are a few that for cultural, political, or religious reasons come on January 1:
1) Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, and his granddaughter Snegurochka, or the Snow Maiden. Ded Moroz is perhaps the most widespread wintertime gift-giver after Santa/Father Christmas/St Nick, with equivalents and variants all across central and eastern Europe as well as norther and central Asia, such as Djed Mraz, Dedo Mraz, Dzmer Pap, Şaxta Baba, Dzied Maroz, Dedek Mraz, and many others. He is a formerly wicked wintertime wizard who now is good and brings gifts to children on his troika.
3) Namahage are not gift-bringers, but are troops of ogres who come down to the Oga Peninsula in Japan, looking for naughty, lazy children, brandishing knives and buckets.
4) Mother Goody, a figure so obscure that there are apparently no pictures of her on the internet, is a gift-giver in the maritime provinces of Canada, more specifically New Brunswick, more specifically Campobello Island. She comes on New Year’s Eve and fills children’s stockings with goodies. Some say she comes from Scotland, some say she is Santa’s wife, while others equate her with Frau Holda of Germany. Incidentally, if you or your family are from Campobello Island and know something about Mother Goody, please drop me a line, thanks.
Hopefully you get a visit from 1, 2, or 4, and not so much 3.