Ded Moroz

A Slavic fictional character similar to that of Father Christmas

Ded Moroz by K.S. Bokareb, Palekh artist
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Ded Moroz brings presents to children and often delivers them in person on New Year's Eve.

Ded Moroz is accompanied by Snegurochka (Russian: Снегурочка, «Snow Maiden»), his granddaughter and helper, who wears long silver-blue robes and a furry cap or a snowflake-like crown. She is a unique attribute of Ded Moroz, since similar characters in other cultures don't have a female companion.

Ded Moroz with Snegurochka. Christmas post card, 1917
pinterest button Ded Moroz with Snegurochka. Christmas post card, 1917 unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ded Moroz wears a heel-length fur coat, a semi-round fur hat, and valenki on his feet. He has a long white beard. He walks with a long magic staff and sometimes rides a troika.

Ded Moroz on troyka of horses
pinterest button Ded Moroz on troyka of horses Mariluna, CC BY-SA 3.0

The residence of Ded Moroz in Russia is considered to be the town of Veliky Ustyug, Vologda Oblast. 

Development of the character

The origins of the character of Ded Moroz predates Christianity as a Slavic wizard of winter. In Slavic mythology, Frost or Morozko is a snow demon.

pinterest button «Ded Moroz» by V.M. Vasnetsov, 1885 Виктор Михайлович Васнецов, CC BY-SA 3.0

Under the influence of Orthodox traditions, the character of Ded Moroz was transformed. Since the 19th century the attributes and legend of Ded Moroz have been shaped by literary influences.

The play Snegurochka by 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 became a popular character.

Christmas post card, before 1917
pinterest button Christmas post card, before 1917 unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0

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 (Novy God) that replaced Christmas.

Ded Moroz made of cottjn, USSR, 1960
pinterest button Ded Moroz made of cottjn, USSR, 1960 Bestalex, CC BY-SA 3.0

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, were less important than the benefits it could bring to Soviet children.

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.

The residence of Ded Moroz in Veliky Ustyug
pinterest button The residence of Ded Moroz in Veliky Ustyug Hardscarf, CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation visiting Ded Moroz' residence in Veliky Ustyug on January 7, 2008
pinterest button Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation visiting Ded Moroz' residence in Veliky Ustyug on January 7, 2008 Presidential Press and Information Office, CC BY 3.0

On January 7, 2008, then President Putin of the Russian Federation visited Ded Moroz' residence in the town of Veliky Ustyug as part of the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve celebration.

Ded Moroz on Fedoskino box
pinterest button Ded Moroz on Fedoskino box Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

The western Santa Claus made inroads in the Russian Federation during the «turbulent» 1990s when Western culture increased its penetration into the post-Soviet Russia. The resurgence of Russia in the early 21st century brought about a renewed emphasis on the basic Slavic character of Ded Moroz.

Ded Moroz bell — Christmas tree toys
pinterest button Ded Moroz bell — Christmas tree toys Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

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 with Snegurochka by Olga Petrova
pinterest button Ded Moroz with Snegurochka by Olga Petrova Ольга Петрова, CC BY-SA 3.0

In November and December 2010, Ded Moroz was one of the candidates in the running for consideration as a mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Useful Information

Ded Moroz
Russian: Дед Моро́з
[dʲɛt mɐˈros]
diminutive Dedushka Moroz Russian: Дедушка Мороз
also: Morozko
Other: Grandfather Frost, Father Christmas, Santa Claus
The literal translation is "Old man Frost", often translated as "Grandfather Frost"

Variations of Ded Moroz in ethnic minority groups of Russia

Many ethnic minorities in Russia also have names in their languages for Ded Moroz. For example, in Bashkir and Tatar, Ded Moroz is known as Ҡыш бабай (Qïš babay, literally: "Winter Old Man").

In Yakut, he is known as Chys Khan ("Master of Cold"). In Nenets he is known as Yamal Iri ("Grandfather of Yamal").

 

International relations of Ded Moroz

Ded Moroz is 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.

The traditional meeting of Russian Ded Moroz and Finnish Joulupukki was held in 2015 despite political isolation of Russia in the West because of Ukraine conflict.

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.