понедельник, 28 декабря 2009 г.
Father Frost the Red Nose
The key figure of the Russian New Year is certainly Ded Moroz (Father Frost, or Grandfather Frost, to be more exact) who arrives wearing a red caftan (old-style long garment) decorated with traditional embroidering and edged with snow-white fluff, a red cap, white mittens and felt boots. Boasting a luxuriant snow-white beard, ruddy nose and cheeks, and a cordial smile, he is leaning on an icy staff with a sparkling star on its top and carrying a huge red sack with presents for kids.
Ded Moroz is usually accompanied by his fairy granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), who helps him play with kids and present the gifts. She is a unique attribute of the image of Father Frost – none of his foreign colleagues has such a cute companion. The image of Snegurochka personifies frozen waters. She is an enigmatic maid (not a small girl) wearing purely white garments. No other colour is allowed by traditional symbolism. On her head she is wearing an eight-radial crown decorated with silver and pearls.
In spite of some similar details, such as a snow-white beard, a long gown and present-giving function, Father Frost (Ded Moroz) accompanied by Snow Maiden in Russia and Santa Claus with his assisting gnomes in the West are quite different characters.
Russian Father Frost (Ded Moroz) comes from the more ancient Morozko. In Russian folklore he is a powerful hero and smith who chains water with his “iron” frosts. Moroz is not hostile to people; in most cases he helps them and presents them with rich presents. To gratify him Russian folks had the custom of “feeding” Moroz. It should be mentioned that the tradition was similar to the festivity of commemorating ancestors. On the eve of Christmas the family’s oldest member would go out on the porch and offer Moroz a spoonful of oatmeal kissel or kutya (a ritual dish consisting of boiled rice with raisins and honey) with the words: “Moroz, Moroz! Come and eat kissel! Moroz, Moroz, do not beat our oats!” Then one would enumerate all other plants that the frost was not supposed to beat.
In fairy tales Moroz is now kind and now evil. To be correct, he is kind towards virtuous and hard-working people, while with mean and lazy he is severe. It is not only about justice. It is rather a combination of two characters in one. In Russian mythology besides Father Frost (Ded Moroz), a good-natured giant there was another Moroz, a little old creature with a long grey beard who would run around fields and provoke biting frosts with his knocking. His malice would cause tree trunks crack and his blows would make hut logs decay.
It is interesting to note that initially Father Frost used to be a wicked and cruel sorcerer who liked to freeze people; this is reflected in Nikolai Nekrasov’s poem “Moroz – Red Nose” telling a story of Ded Moroz killing a young peasant widow and orphaning her small kids just to entertain himself. Ded Moroz took after the Old Slavic gods: Pozvizd - the god of wind and good and bad weather, Zimnik - god of winter, and the terrifying Korochun – an underworld god ruling over frosts.
The peculiar character of those pagan gods determined the initial disposition of Ded Moroz – at first he stole children and brought them away in his gigantic sack. To ransom the kids, their parents had to give him presents. However, with the lapse of time, everything turned upside down, as it often happens: under the influence of Orthodox traditions Father Frost reformed, became kind and started to give presents to kids instead of kidnapping them. Now he adopted certain traits from Saint Nicolas, the prototype of the Western Santa Claus.
Yet, the image of Father Frost took its final shape in the USSR: he became the main symbol of the New Year’s Holiday that replaced Christmas as the most favourite and fairy holiday in the pre-revolutionary Russia. The image of “Soviet” Father Frost was established by Soviet filmmakers in the 1930s.
Father Frost has not just kept his popularity and importance up to date, but is gaining more and more of them. He and his snow-white granddaughter have made amusing professions: at numerous Yolkas (New Year festive matinees) held all over the huge Russia they entertain children and their parents with verses, riddles and performances, sing and dance with them around the fir tree, and, of course, shower them with presents and greetings. During the festive days one can sometimes even have luck of coming across a whole posse of white-bearded men in red, all carrying enormous sacks. Father Frosts even have their professional holiday, which falls on the last Sunday of August.
Father Frost has finally acquired his legal permanent residence, which is in Veliki Ustyug town of Vologda region, Russia. His estate is located in the forest, 11 km away from the town, which has been acknowledged the homeland of Father Frost for its rich history, attractive architecture and the beauty of its nature. The estate harbors the house of Ded Moroz and cozy cottages for his guests, winter playgrounds and other attractions for children and adults. Sculptures of fairy tale characters beautifully lit at night add to the magic atmosphere of the place.
The tourist project “Veliky Ustyug – Homeland of Father Frost” existing since 1999 is rapidly developing. All this time Father Frost has been honestly answering thousands of kid’s letters.
In January 2001 he visited his brother Santa Claus in Lapland and they agreed about development of sworn brotherhood relations between Veliky Ustyug and Rovaniemi.
One can get to the homeland of Russian Father Frost by special tourist trains from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vologda, as well as participate in special festive bus tours.