Dossier on Santa Claus

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Dossier on Santa Claus
Dossier on Santa Claus

Santa Claus, Snow Maiden, Christmas tree - what is the history of these images that appear in the New Year. How Morozko, Nikolai Ugodnik, Santa Claus and Moroz Ivanovich are connected with these images

Father Frost

In Finland it is called Joulupukki, in Azerbaijan - Mine? Baba ?, in China - Shen Dan Laozhen, in Kazakhstan - Ayaz-Ata, in Belarus - Zyuzya, and in Bulgaria - Dyado Mraz.

The image of Santa Claus as a magical character who personifies the New Year's holiday (in Christian countries - Christmas) exists among very many peoples. But who is he - this fabulous grandfather and where did he come from? We will tell you about the formation of his image in our country.

Name: Father Frost

Interpretation of the name: winter character representing cold

Origin: East Slavic version of the Christmas giver

Place of residence:

- late 1980s - Arkhangelsk

- 1995-1998 - Lapland nature reserve

- 1998 - to the present - Veliky Ustyug (in 2012 - also the North Pole)

Main occupation: deliver gifts to children; to please and amuse

Dress: blue, blue, red or white fur coat, long white beard, staff, felt boots

Relatives: granddaughter Snow Maiden

In fact, the modern image of Santa Claus is a complex interweaving of legends, myths and beliefs from different times and peoples.

Slavic mythology

If we talk about the Slavs (namely, about the Eastern Slavs, who made up the bulk of the population of the ancient Russian state), then frost as a natural element has been revered by them since ancient times. They pictured him as a very short or, on the contrary, a tall gray-haired old man with a long beard, who, according to some researchers, had the peculiarity of running through the fields and causing crackling frosts with a thud.


They tried to please Frost (who was called Studenets, Snegovey, Zimnik, Treskun): on Christmastide and Maundy Thursday there was a custom of "frost clique", when Grandfather was invited to taste pancakes and kutya, which were left on the window or porch.

As you know, kutia is a memorial meal among the Slavs (probably pancakes are partly related to commemoration, at least they are considered ritual food). Therefore, Frost is a character who, horrible as it may seem, is associated with the spirits of deceased ancestors.

A good harvest, in the minds of Slavic farmers, was associated with a snowy and frosty winter, hence the veneration of Frost.

The image of Frost is well traced in Russian folk proverbs, sayings and fairy tales. We all remember the fairy tale "Frost", which, although it appeared later, still has echoes of antiquity in it, where Frost appears as a very impartial type. In the text of the tale, on the one hand, Morozko, of course, presents his stepdaughter with gold for "good" behavior, but on the other hand … he freezes his stepmother's daughter to death, in fact, for ordinary laziness.


“At first, Grandfather was a disgusting type,” Svetlana Adonyeva, a well-known philologist, folklorist, specialist in Soviet history of Grandfather Frost, told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in 2004. - Morozko represented the people in the form of an old man who controlled the death of all living things with his staff. According to legends, on the winter solstices this grandfather had to be appeased. Pleased with him … a young virgin who was tied to a tree and left to freeze in the wild frost. If it froze in a day, it means that the sacrifice was accepted. And the sack of Santa Claus was originally intended for collecting offerings. With his staff, the vile old man beat disobedient children or intimidated them with terrible tales. Only by the beginning of the 20th century did the grandfather become completely kind thanks to the famous children's song about the Christmas tree, written by the poetess Raisa Kudasheva in 1903 … According to legend, Grandfather was married in Spring. But no one remembers this for a long time.And rightly so: otherwise I would have to answer stupid questions, they say, where is the spouse, why not together?.. It is not known - the truth has been lost in the mists of time.

Royal Russia

For the first time, the writer Fyodor Odoevsky wrote the folklore image of Frost in a literary way in the fairy tale "Moroz Ivanovich", which was included in the collection "Tales of Grandfather Irenaeus", which was published in 1840. Moroz Ivanovich is not yet a hero of New Year's parties that is not quite familiar to us. The fairy tale takes place not on New Year's or Christmas, but in spring, Moroz Ivanovich lives in an icy country, which can only be entered through a well, he does not come to the children - the children themselves come to him, and he does not give gifts either. Maybe, it's true, to reward for a job well done, but, in general, that's all. But thanks to Odoevsky, Moroz Ivanovich appears before us no longer in the form of an evil old man, but rather a peaceful and even fair grandfather: instead of freezing the Stepmother's lazy daughter, he just gives her a necklace of icicles.

For quite a long time, Moroz Ivanovich and the tree were in no way connected with the New Year. However, in the second half of the 19th century, the first attempts to create the image of a certain "Christmas grandfather" can be traced, who would give gifts to children like St. Nicholas (Nicholas the Pleasant, Nicholas the Wonderworker), the prototype of Santa Claus in English-speaking countries. However, the image of St. Nicholas somehow did not take root in our country, only the tradition of bringing gifts to children for Christmas was entrenched (before that, on the first day of the New Year, gifts were given to children, but this was done by the parents themselves).


This is what Elena Dushechkina, Doctor of Philology, writes about this in her work "Russian Christmas Tree: History, Mythology, Literature": the donor myth began to change. They began to tell the children that an old man brought them gifts, who was called differently, but at the same time they never used the name of St. Nicholas. Connections with Europe and the spread of Christmas cards since the end of the 19th century, which at first were only of foreign production, led to the rapid assimilation of the myth of a new donor, especially since the soil had already been prepared for this in Russia. The name of Santa Claus did not take root among the Russians: in connection with the creation of a new Russified Christmas tree myth, the donor had to receive a Russian name."

Soviet period

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the familiar image of Santa Claus was already forming in our country, but not completely. After the revolution, Santa Claus and Snow Maiden became "enemies of the people", and Christmas and New Year's tree were persecuted by the Soviet government. Their decisive expulsion took place on the eve of 1929. Christmas was declared an official working day, and special patrolmen walked around the courtyards, looking in the windows - if anyone had thought of celebrating.

Christmas is coming soon -

Ugly bourgeois holiday, Linked from time immemorial

With him is an ugly custom:

The capitalist will come to the forest

Inert, faithful to prejudice, He will cut down the Christmas tree with an ax, Letting go of a cruel joke.

Agitstishok of the early 1930s

Fortunately, soon - on the eve of 1936 - the Soviet authorities were smart enough to return the long-suffering children's holiday, and with it Santa Claus (of course, there is no talk about Christmas).

In the further formation of the image of Santa Claus, Soviet cinema also played a significant role. In 1965 the film-fairy tale "Frost" was released, and in 1968 - "The Snow Maiden". In 1971, the teacher Troshkin from "Gentlemen of Fortune" puts on the mask of Santa Claus, in 1975 the New Year's Adventures of Masha and Viti are released, and in 1982, Kivrin from the movie "The Wizards" disguises himself as Santa Claus.


Svetlana Adonyeva believes that the canonical image of Santa Claus and Snegurochka as obligatory characters in New Year's festivities for the most part was nevertheless formed during the Soviet era - in the 1930s, when, after the ban, the Christmas tree was rehabilitated together with Santa Claus.Elena Dushechkina, in principle agreeing with her, notes that the idea of ​​Santa Claus was not so little influenced by ancient myths, which we talked about above.

As for the image of the granddaughter of the Snow Maiden, then, according to Svetlana Adonyeva, it took shape only in 1873 thanks to the play by Alexander Ostrovsky "The Snow Maiden", where Santa Claus acquires a young assistant. According to the play, this is his daughter, whom later writers and poets for some reason "remade" into a granddaughter (perhaps, given the age of the old man?). Although the image of a certain virgin, as we remember, is still found in the mythology of the ancient Slavs, albeit in a slightly different quality - folklore tends to link unrelated concepts into a single whole over time.


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