At first glance the Russian Santa (Дед Мороз), also called Father Frost, Ded Moroz, and Grandfather Frost, looks like the American Santa Claus… but with a closer look you will notice a few differences. Yes, they both wear boots, a coat, and they both have white beards. However, The Russian Santa wears a long heel-length coat and is seen walking with a magical staff. He wears valenki or jackboots on his feet and a semi-round fur hat.
Another difference is the way Father Frost delivers presents. He does not secretly put them under the tree after climbing down a chimney and eating cookies and milk… he delivers gifts in person! If at any time there is a present under a Christmas tree, it was put there unexpectedly. New Year’s parties are popular gift giving times, as New Year replaced Christmas in Russian history when communists banned religious holidays. Nowadays Russians celebrate New Years on the 31st of December, Christmas on the 7th of January, and Old New Year on the 14th of January.
Ded Moroz may not have any elves to help him with all the gifts, but he has another companion that is only seen in Russian culture. She is the Snow Maiden (Снегурочка or Snegurochka). The Snow Maiden is often seen wearing a long silvery blue costume and a snowflake crown. She helps Grandpa Frost along his journey.
Over the years with Orthodox influence, Ded Moroz started adopting traits of Saint Nicholas. Today in Russia, Ded Moroz and his granddaughter, Snow Maiden visit children and bring them gifts. They also sing Russian Christmas carols.
The Russian Santa is loved by many, and a hand carved version of him is seen in almost every home in Russia, and they are gaining popularity in the United States. They range in size, detail, and miniature paintings, but they all have a handmade beauty that everyone can appreciate.
Carved Santas start out as a single block of dried linden wood. The carver then begins to make shape over the course of a month or two, or sometimes even longer. When the shape is complete, the artist can begin to paint Father Frost, often depicting fairy tales or the Troika.
Russian Santa is jolly and full of life, so celebrate Christmas this year with a hand carved Russian Santa!
About the author
Lindsey Mae is freelance artist who enjoys writing fun blog posts for Arina Anashkina and The Russian Store.