Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Ded Moroz and Yolka

The origin of Santa Claus is in St. Nicholas. He was born in Asia Minor at at the Greco-Roman city of of Myra in the province of Lycia, at a time when the region was entirely Greek in origin. Due to the suppression of religion during the Soviet regime, St. Nicholas was replaced by Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost, the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts on New Year's. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, the Snowmaiden, who helps distribute the gifts.

The Christmas tree (Yolka) is yet another tradition banned during the Soviet era.To keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year's trees, instead. Since ornaments were either very costly or unavailable, family trees were trimmed with homemade decorations and fruit. Yolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. The custom of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great, after he visited Europe during the 1700's.


  1. History of the Russian New Year tree
    The tradition to install and decorate Yolka dates back to the 17th century when Peter the Great imported the tradition from his travels of Europe. However, in the Imperial Russia Yolka were banned since 1916 by Synod as a tradition, originated in Germany (Russian counterpart during the World War I). This ban was prolonged in the Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union until 1935 (New Year tree was seen as a "bourgeois and religious prejudice" until that year). The New Year celebration was not banned, though there was no official holiday for it until 1935. The New Year's tree revived in the USSR after the famous letter by Pavel Postyshev, published in Pravda on December 28 1935, where he asked for installing New Year trees in schools, children's homes, Young Pioneer Palaces, children's clubs, children's theaters and cinema theaters. In 1937, a New Year Tree was also installed in the Moscow Palace of Unions. An invitation to the Yolka at the Palace of Unions became a matter of honour for Soviet children.

  2. Ded Moroz is a fictional character who in some Slavic cultures plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus. The literal translation of the name would be "Old Man Frost", although the name is often translated as "Father Frost" in light of the modern usage of "ded" to refer to a grandfather. Ded Moroz is said to bring presents to children, however, unlike the secretive Santa Claus, the gifts are often delivered "in person", at New Year's Eve parties and other New Year celebrations.

    The "in-person" gifts usually occur at organized celebrations at kindergartens or schools and at circus performances around New Year time where the gifts can be standardized. Various agencies provide Ded Moroz visits to families and offices. In such cases specific gifts can be chosen for particular members at the parties. The clandestine placing of gifts under a New Year tree occurs when a Ded Moroz visit is not arranged for some reason.

    Depictions of Ded Moroz commonly show him accompanied by Snegurochka (Russian: Снегурочка, "Snow Maiden"), his granddaughter and helper, who is often depicted in long silver-blue robes and a furry cap or a snowflake-like crown. She is a unique attribute of Ded Moroz; no traditional gift-givers from other cultures are portrayed with a similar companion.

    The traditional appearance of Ded Moroz resembles that of Santa Claus, with his coat, boots and long white beard. Specifically, Ded Moroz is often shown wearing a heel-length fur coat, a semi-round fur hat, and valenki or jackboots on his feet. Unlike Santa Claus, he is often depicted as walking with a long magical staff. In the Ukraine, Ded Moroz rides a sleigh that is pulled by three reindeer.

    The official residence of Ded Moroz in Russia is considered to be the town of Veliky Ustyug. The residence of the Belarusian Ded Moroz is said to be in Belavezhskaya Pushcha.

  3. The Russian Santa Claus is known as Ded Moroz. “Ded Moroz” translates to “Grandfather Frost” in English, but most English speakers simply call him “Father Frost.” He is a figure associated with Russian Christmas traditions and New Year's traditions.

    While Ded Moroz is the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, he is unmistakably Russian in appearance and attitude. He is typically shown in a long, Russian-style coat in the colors of red, icy blue, silver, gold, or another color appropriate to the season, which is lined or trimmed with white fur. Ded Moroz lacks the conical-style cap worn by the Western Santa and instead sports a rounded Russian cap generously trimmed with fur. His clothing is sometimes richly decorated with embroidery. Traditionally shown as a tall and slender older gentleman, Ded Moroz cuts an elegant figure on Christmas cards wishing the receiver happy New Year.

    Ded Moroz carries a staff and wears a long white beard. He protects his feet from the cold by tall valenki or leather boots. The three horses of the Russian troika offer enough power and speed to get Ded Moroz to where he needs to go – the Russian Santa has no need for eight reindeer!

    Ded Moroz delivers gifts on New Year's Eve rather than on Christmas Eve. He is often accompanied by a figure from Russian fairy tales, Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden. In the legend of Ded Moroz, she is said to be his granddaughter.

    Instead of the North Pole, the Russian Santa Claus officially makes his home at an estate in the Russian town of Veliky Ustyug. Children can write their letters to Ded Moroz and send them to Veliky Ustyug in hopes of having their holiday wishes granted. Those who visit Veliky Ustyug can have their photo take with Ded Moroz, ride in a troika, and enjoy wintertime activities.

    During the holiday season, Ded Moroz makes appearances in major Russian cities, like Moscow. He often takes part in festivals and parades.

  4. The earliest tales of Ded Moroz presented him as a wicked and cruel sorcerer, similar to 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. According to legend, Ded Moroz liked to freeze people and kidnap children, taking them away in his gigantic sack. Parents were said to have to give him presents as a ransom in return for their children. However, under the influence of Orthodox traditions, the character of Ded Moroz was completely transformed, later adopting certain traits from the Dutch Sinterklaas (or Saint Nicholas), the prototype of Santa Claus.

    Since the 19th century the attributes and legend of Ded Moroz have been shaped by literary influences. The fairy tale play Snegurochka by the famous Russian playwright 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 had become the most popular of the various mythical New Year gift-givers in Russia.

    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 that replaced Christmas.

    During the period of the Soviet Union's dominance over Eastern Europe, Ded Moroz was officially introduced to many nations, despite being alien to them. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, there have been efforts to revive local characters.

  5. New Year’s Fir-Tree

    In the end of December homes are also decorated with fir-trees, which can be purchased at fir-tree bazaars or cut in the forest (with a special license required). Fir-trees are traditionally kept in homes till January 13-14, when the Russians celebrate the Old New Year.

    Initially fir-trees were decorated with wooden toys, fruits, nuts and sweets. Decorations of glass came into fashion somewhat from 1850.

    Modern fir-trees are decorated with glass balls and toys, garlands and tinsels. Figures of Father Frost and Snow Maid together with New Year presents are hidden under the fir-tree. Some families are lucky to be visited by alive Father Frosts and Snow Maids who bring the presents to well-behaved children.

    Festive matinees, called New Year’s Yolka (i.e. fir-tree) are traditionally held in kindergartens and schools. Children dressed up as hares, snowflakes, and other characters, take part in the masquerade, sing songs, play and dance around the fir-tree and get presents from Father Frost and Snow Maid.

    The most famous Russian New Year’s song turns 103 this year; its lyrics were written by Raisa Kudsheva, a teacher by profession, and later set to music by the amateur composer Leonid Bekman. Almost a folk song nowadays, it tells about a small fir-tree that was born in the forest and now have come to children and brought lots of joy to them.

  6. Father Frost and Snow Maiden

    The New Year in Russia is impossible without the magic crowd puller Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his fairy granddaughter, companion and helpmate Snegurochka (Snow Maiden)! They come to greet kids with the New Year and give them long-awaited gifts. In spite of some similar details, such as a snow-white beard, long gown and present-giving function, Father Frost and Santa Claus are quite different characters.

  7. Most Important Moments of the New Year’s Night

    The celebrations start at about 11 pm, when the family is seated at the festive dinner. Shortly before 12 pm they toast “for the old year”, remembering and paying tribute to the good things it brought about. It is a custom in Russia to listen to the speech of the head of state broadcasted over TV and radio. The President traditionally summarizes the achievements of the past year and wishes Happy New Year to the citizens of Russia.

    After the speech, at midnight sharp, the country listens to the Kremlin chimes, which signalize the beginning of the New Year. The chimes are followed by the country’s hymn.

    During these exciting minutes all are drinking Champaign and wish each other Happy New Year. Afterwards lots of people like to go outdoors to let off all sorts of fireworks and bangers, and lit Bengal lights. Festive performances with songs, dances and games are held at the central squares of cities and towns.

    As for lovers of peace and silence, their day will come to, when after the uproarious New Year’s night the streets turn unusually quiet and calm for a few days, even in megalopolises like Moscow.

  8. New Year Popular Beliefs

    There is a whole range of beliefs concerning the celebrations of the New Year. The most famous saying asserts: “As you meet the New Year, so will you spend it”. Thus everyone does one’s best to celebrate this decisive holiday merrily and in the hearty company of friends and family.

    They also say, that one must “leave all the debts to the old year”, i.e. return the debts before the beginning of the coming year. On the New Year’s Night one ought to be wearing brand new clothes, which at the best should be of the “lucky colours” of the year to come.

    One of the most significant and breath-taking elements of the New Year’s Night is making wishes. They believe that the utmost wishes made on the New Year’s Night will surely fulfill in the New Year. There is a unique method of making wishes that gives almost a hundred percent fulfillment guarantee: while the chimes are striking twelve, one should write the wish on a sheet of paper, burn it on a candle, mix the ashes in his/her glass of Champaign and drink it before the chimes cease striking.

  9. Christmas-Tree Shows for Children

    Christmas-Tree Shows are traditional holiday events for children, which are usually held in Russian recreation centres, clubs, theatres and even in the Town Hall, the Kremlin, the Cathedral of the Christ the Saviour, Luzhniki Sport Complex, the Hall of Columns and other famous places. These events are usually theatrical fancy-dress performances with the participation of Ded Moroz, Snegurochka and characters from Russian fairy-tales, cartoons and films. Children are not just watchers but active participants of the performances. They sing and dance in a ring around the big Christmas Tree, take part in games and contests, help actors in their theatrical adventure. In the end Ded Moroz presents all the children with gifts. Christmas-Tree shows were created in the Soviet time, and it is still the best present parents can give their kids in Russia.

  10. Russia’s version of Santa Claus is Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). Ded Moroz is thought to be an old pagan character who was married to Winter. He dresses in blue, not red, and he travels in a sleigh pulled by three horses. He is a little stricter than Santa, as he sometimes carries a big stick which he uses to beat children if they’ve misbehaved! No chimney antics either - he leaves presents at the front door. His home is a log house in the wooded village of Viliky Ustyug in northern Russia. Children can even write him a letter (if they do it in Russian) and Ded Moroz loves to read them. His exclusive address is: Ded Moroz, Ded Moroz’ House, Veliky Ustyug, 162390 Vologodskaya Oblast, Russia.

  11. Historically Ded Moroz came to Russia in the late 1800’s when many secular gift-giving characters began to come on the scene across Europe. Yet, pre-revolutionary images often depict him in a costume akin to clerical grab and probably also traces his roots back to St. Nicholas, who is also a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church. After the 1917 revolutions, the Bolsheviks deported Ded Moroz as the campaigned against religion and superstitions.

    Joseph Stalin restored the tradition in 1930s and invited him back from exile. At this time he distinguished himself from Santa by wearing a light blue costume, perhaps because Santa’s red costume has its roots in early Coca Cola advertisements. He adopted a more modest appearance, which included his fur coat and hat, white sapagi, or knee high boots, and a wooden staff instead of a cane.

    In post-Soviet Russia Ded Moroz has become quite an entrepreneur by building himself a huge new house and opening a big holiday wonderland for people wishing to visit him and Snegurochka year-round. And we wouldn’t be surprised if he traded in his troika for a luxury SUV.

  12. Whereas the figure of Santa Claus is believed to be primarily inspired by Saint Nicholas – who was incidentally quite a real historical character, Ded Moroz (Morozko) is a mighty pagan god of the Eastern Slavs. This character comes out of legends and myths, symbolising Russian winter frosts – a blacksmith who binds water into ice, generously covering the winterly nature with silvery snow, bringing the joy of winter celebrations, and, should the need arise, defend Russians in a year of woe from advancing enemies by bringing never-yet-seen winter cold, freezing all living beings into ice and breaking iron.

    Frost as a natural element had been personified by Eastern Slavs since the old days. A cold snowy winter with hard frosts was associated by peasant farmers with rich harvest on the following summer. The harbinger of this was the coming of harsh Christmas or mid-January frosts. That is why the Christmastide was the time for “calling for frost”: it was invited for a ritual meal. Food for the frost was left on window-sills and on the porch. Along with that, frost was also asked not to come in summer to kill the harvest.

  13. The present-day Ded Moroz character began to emerge in 1840 when the publication of а story-book entitled “Grandpa Iriney’s Stories” by Vladimir Odoyevsky. Among the fairy tales found in it was one entitled “Moroz Ivanovich”. This was the first time the folklore and cultic Frost-Moroz featured in literature. Still, the image created by Odoyevsky was yet far from the New Year character known today.

  14. So what does this impressively large, stately bogatyr look like?

    He’s got long, thick hair and a beard, silvery and fluffy, like snow – they are a symbol of his powers, prosperity and wealth;
    Always wearing a long fur-coat lined with thick fur. This is quite understandable, isn’t it – you can’t do without it in the midst of a bitterly cold winter! His fur-trimmed coat was almost always white, it was only in the Soviet times that this was replaced by the “revolutionary” red;
    His hat is of a semi-oval shape, the kind Russian boyars used to wear;
    Felt boots, of course! The famous valenki! It is, after all, 40 0C below outside! But once inside, Ded Moroz may well change into white winter boots embroidered with silver smile;
    The magic twisted cut-glass staff;
    The sack with gifts. Many children believe that it is bottomless. Ded Moroz never lets anyone near his sack taking out all gifts himself. He never looks into it but always guesses straight away which present is expected by each and every child – but little wonder it is! He is a real wizard, after all!!

  15. Ded Moroz travels across the vast icy spaces on foot or in a three-horse sleigh. Or, else, he travels in some mysterious way of which we are not to know anything. No one really knows how he gets into the house, but everyone can see that he HAS BEEN HERE...

    Ded Moroz leads a healthy lifestyle – he does not smoke a pipe, nor does he wear glasses smile.

    Just as is due to any Slavic god, Ded Moroz is severe but fair. Despite his enormous powers of freezing every mouse and man on earth, he, nevertheless, embodies all warmth of the ancient pagan Slavic soul, and can only be compared to the warmth of the sun.

    It is hard to say for sure where the Russian Ded Moroz lives, as the legends are many and all disagree on this account. What is for sure is that he lives somewhere in the Far North where winter reigns the year round.

  16. In our day and age Ded Moroz has, however, found permanent “residence” in the ancient town of Velikiy Ustyug in the Russian North (Vologda region). The point is that since 1998 the state tourism project “Velikiy Ustyug – the homeland of Ded Moroz” is underway there. Further still, the framework of the project now includes, since 2005, the celebration of Ded Moroz’s official birthday: November 18, - this is the day when, as scientists claim, the vast part of the country’s territory is already covered with permanent snow and first mighty frosts come.

    You may be free to think whatever you like of it, but what is beyond all doubt is that visiting the abode of the real (!) Ded Moroz and getting the long-desired present from him is a universal dream of every child! And isn’t it just wonderful that children have now been given such a marvellous opportunity to have exactly that. And if one cannot travel to meet Ded Moroz, they can simply right a letter to him and send it to a very simple address “Russia. Velikiy Ustyug. For Ded Moroz”. And Ded Moroz, - a hard worker that he is, – will by all means respond and fulfil your wish smile!

  17. Where does the tradition of decorating an evergreen tree for Christmas and New Year’s Day come from? It is assumed that this practice goes back to the times of ancient Celts, and more specifically their priests – the druids, who were the first to worship the fir as an abode of fertility spirits. Every year, in order to appease the spirits they hung all sorts of donations on fir trees.

    As for Europe, the tradition of adorning the Christmas tree was first mentioned in a German chronicle of the early 17th century. Half a century later, the gaily-decorated, beautiful Christmas tree became an integral part of winter holidays all around Germany. Later, the tradition was carried over to other European countries. In England, the first Christmas tree was decorated in Windsor Castle, on the order of Queen Victoria, in 1867. At that time, Christmas trees were adorned according to special, well-established canons: the top of the tree had to be crowned with a star, symbolising the Star of Bethlehem, whereas the branches had to be ornamented with apples, which symbolised the forbidden fruit; candles, which embodied the sacrifice of Christ; and ornately shaped gingerbread and pastry, which served as a reminder of unleavened bread, eaten during communion.

    Thus, in the very beginning Christmas tree decorations were mainly edible. In the 17th century people started making more durable ornaments – they gilded fir cones, coated egg shells with a thin layer of brass, made paper flowers and elaborate handicrafts from cotton wool, or elegant stars, butterflies and animal figurines from silver foil. Tin wire was used as tinsel. There is a legend that tells how tinsel was created: once a kind fairy turned an ordinary spider’s web into a sparkling silver thread and gave it to children, who used it as tinsel.

  18. Decoration of an evergreen tree for winter holidays has always been associated with various legends and myths. Christmas balls were first used for decoration after a lean year, when believers requested glassblowers to make glass apples for the holiday. Since then, Christmas balls have been considered decoration classics. The first Christmas balls were produced in 1848 in the small German town of Lauscha, in Thuringia. They were made of clear or coloured glass, coated with a thin layer of lead on the inside, and adorned with spangles on the outside.

    With time, selling Christmas decorations became a lucrative business, and in 1867 a gas plant was set up in Lauscha. Its employees, using easily adjustable gas burners, which produced high-temperature flames, blew large thin-walled bubbles of glass.

    Soon the harmful lead coating was supplanted by silver nitrate, and glass figurines were produced in much more varied shapes – birds, bunches of grapes in ceramic bowls, jars and musical pipes. The figurines were adorned with gold and silver dust.

    Over several centuries, glass blowing shops in Lauscha maintained a monopoly on Christmas decoration production. However, in the 1920s they faced competition from Czech, Polish, American and Japanese producers. Subsequently, many other countries started making these beautiful and fragile wares.

  19. 304 years ago – on September 01, 7208 anno mundi (the Julian calendar wasn’t introduced yet), patriarchal Moscow was getting ready to celebrate the New Year’s Day. But the holiday wasn’t supposed to take place, due to a decree of Peter the Great, proclaiming that September 1st wasn’t a holiday any longer. December 31, 7208 was followed by the first day of the new, 1700th year of the Christian era, just as it was the case in European countries

  20. The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree didn’t take root for quite a while, for a number of cultural and historical reasons. In Siberia people started decorating Christmas trees even later than in other parts of the country – the region was home to many non-Russians with their centuries-old traditions, as well as Old Believers, who called Peter the Great “a bold devil and blasphemer” and considered all his innovations demonic temptations. Besides, the Slavs had long regarded the fir tree as the “tree of the dead” and didn’t associate it with any holiday. Peter the Great even had to issue an ordinance about the “correct” time to celebrate New Year’s Day, which also instructed people to decorate pine, fir and juniper trees in every street and at every gate.

  21. However, many years passed before the tradition of decorating an evergreen tree for Christmas and New Year’s came into fashion for good and all. This had much to do with the marriage of Emperor Nicolas I with Princess Charlotte of Prussia, who later was baptized as Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. On the Christmas Eve of 1817, tables in the Winter Palace in Saint-Petersburg were ornamented with little garlands of fir branches, that were supposed to remind the Princess of her native Prussia, where candle-lit Christmas trees were a tradition. Festivities in the royal family were accompanied by the exchange of presents, which were put under one of the Christmas trees on the table. There were usually a lot of presents and little fir trees on the tables were not sufficient to accommodate all of them, so one year a large natural tree was brought to the palace from the forest. Thousands of people who wanted to share the holiday with the tsar were able to come and see the royal Christmas tree. The innovation quickly spread, and by the end of the 19th century, decorated fir trees and fireworks became indispensable features of winter holidays in many towns and cities of Central Russia. The demand for New Year’s decorations led to the appearance of the first dedicated cooperatives, and in 1848, the first plant manufacturing lights “without colour and odour”, named ”Bengal” lights, sprang up in Moscow.

  22. Christmas tree decorations, politics and art are inextricably intertwined. Looking at Russian Christmas tree decorations you can “read” the history of the country. Their manufacturers, being true artists, have always responded to the events happening in the country at a particular time. Even during wartime people celebrated the arrival of a new year and didn’t stop believing in victory. Many decorations of that time were made of those materials that were at hand. Thus, one amateur craftsman made a star to crown the top of his New-Year tree from a chemical flask. Among other decorations were toy soldiers, tanks and guns. Even the Father Frost on greeting cards was depicted hammering away at the enemy… Branches of New-Year trees were covered with artificial snow, made of medical cotton. Many decorations were made of bandages or paper. Among the typical decorations were burned-out light bulbs. To turn a useless bulb into a beautiful Christmas ball you had to cut off its top, paint the glass and weld a little loop on it.

    When Stalin came into power, everybody deferred to his opinion. Stalin loved hockey, so manufacturers of New-Year tree decorations started to produce figurines of hockey players. The Soviet leader’s fondness for the film “Circus”, starring the famous Lyubov Orlova, led to the widespread popularity of figurines of circus performers, including cotton wool black children.

    The 1950s-1960s were the era of decorations that were attached to the Christmas tree by a pin. Then, decorations were designed around the following themes: children, sport, Soviet symbols, pioneers, red stars, etc. After man’s first flight into space, the most popular decorations were figurines of cosmonauts, satellites and rockets. When the country started producing “Pobeda” cars, car-shaped figurines appeared on the market. In 1949, to mark Pushkin’s anniversary, manufacturers produced sets of decorations depicting characters from the great writer and poet’s works. Figurines of people dressed in national costumes of all the Soviet republics were also produced in mass quantities.

    Agriculture was the next theme that came into fashion. People adorned their New Year trees with figurines of carrots, tomatoes, wheat sheaves, eggplants, peppers, lemons, cucumbers (fresh and freshly-salted), strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears and plums. At the beginning of the Khrushchev era, a typical New Year tree was reminiscent of an agricultural achievements exhibition. Corn cob figurines enjoyed particular popularity, as Khrushchev was a staunch promoter of corn, which he called “The Queen of the Fields”. Corn cobs have remained the only decoration manufactured at “Elochka” (New Year tree) factory since the Soviet times. At the end of the 1950s, when the film “Karnavalnaya Noch” (the Carnival Night), directed by Eldar Ryazanov, hit the Soviet screens, factories started manufacturing clock-shaped decorations, with their hands pointing to 11.55 p.m.

    In 1966, manufacturers started the mass production of New Year tree decorations, which now ceased to be painted by hand. Deportations became less attractive and elaborate: quality gave way to quantity. Decorations manufactured after that year aren’t considered a rarity.

    In the 1970s, the indispensable stars on top of New Year trees were supplanted by spikes, which, in their design, resembled Western tree top decorations. The first Soviet tree top spike, produced in the 1960s, was a missile lifting off from the ground.

    Christmas tree decorations also changed depending on the fashion. Very popular until 1900, bright trees, covered with decorations from top to bottom, were considered in bad taste at the turn of the century and were supplanted by austere, stylish, silvery-white New Year trees.

  23. In recent days, the fashion for handmade things has come back to Europe. Manufacturers in Russia have also followed this trend and started producing hand-painted Christmas decorations. Unusualness and originality have become the main criteria for decorations and ornaments, which have been produced with the use of most uncommon materials, such as wood, clay, fabric and even computer disks. Designers may put felt or leather boots on a tree’s “feet” and hang garlands made of buttons, pearls or even bank notes on the branches.

    However, people in many countries try to maintain their centuries-old traditions. In America, for example, a Christmas tree isn’t a Christmas tree without red-and-white-striped candy canes. It is believed that the confectioner who invented the candy didn’t choose the form by chance – he wanted it to resemble the letter J, which is the first letter in Jesus’ name. Old traditions are respected in Japan as well – people in this country still decorate Christmas trees with origami figurines.

  24. Nowadays, the Moscow New Year’s decoration factory makes about a thousand figurines per day. Every year, the factory renews almost 80% of its production range. Single-colour New Year tree balls are no longer in fashion, whereas painted ones are becoming more and more trendy. Among the most popular themes are Russian national symbols – one of the hits is the “Russian Kremlins” set, containing figurines of the famous kremlins of Moscow, Velikiy Novgorod, Nizhniy Novgorod and other ancient cities.

    Present-day New Year tree decorations are not only used for holiday purposes, but also make up museum collections. Beautiful Christmas decorations are a source of pride for a collector, and a tradition is emerging to give expensive and unusual decorations as presents for New Year’s Day.

    Since the late1980s, the fashion for all sorts of horoscopes has swept the country and this has been reflected in decorations. This trend is still alive: Christmas balls with animals painted on them as well as animal figurines are manufactured in large numbers and enjoy unfailing popularity.

  25. The Christmas tree decoration industry has also seen a partial return to its historical origins, with creative, homemade decorations becoming more and more popular. Vintage New Year trees have been considered the height of fashion for several years now.

    Once store shelves are filled with beautiful sparkling New Year tree decorations, the air is brimming with the holiday spirit and people start anticipating and waiting for something magical to happen, just like in their childhood. We all remember this feeling – the feeling of quiet joy, which arises when you see the rainbow reflection from a glass New Year tree bal

  26. 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.

  27. Antique Christmas Decorations: Mementos from Tsarist Russia

    In the mid-1840s, however, the country finally opened up to Western Christmas traditions. Most well-off households had Christmas trees put up, in order to have children's parties -- the "Tree Parties" ("Yolka"), as they were called. The first Christmas tree decorations were imported from Germany, but already in 1848 the first fireworks factory was opened, as well as workshops that produced modest ornaments out of papier maché, depicting various animals -- horses, rabbits and squirrels, later followed by the figures of Father Frost, Snegurochka and popular fairy-tale characters, like Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood.

    As Russia found herself at war with Germany in 1914, all "German cultural influences" were officially banned, and that included Christmas tree parties. In 1917, the Socialist revolution attempted to restrict all religious activity and finally banned it completely by Stalin's orders in 1926. No Christmas tree decorations were produced in the country from 1914 until 1935 when the Soviet leaders decided to give the winter holiday season back to children.

  28. Collectible New Year Tree Decorations from the Soviet Era

    As Christmas was banned, in 1935 the country's leaders decided to move the official winter holiday to New Year's Day. The Christmas tree was renamed the New Year Tree, and Father Frost (not Father Christmas any more) had to reschedule his gift-giving visits to Russian children to January 1.

    The new tree decorations depicted objects that were as far from religion as possible. Airplanes and zeppelins, paratroopers and frontier guards complete with their dogs, schoolchildren and ethnic minorities in their picturesque costumes were the most popular themes for new tree ornaments. Usually, they were made with pressed cotton wool, painted by hand and covered with starch to preserve their shape. Colorful glass balls and figurines were also made.

    Still, as factory-made tree decorations were expensive, many families made their own, starting in early December. Children would glue lengths of colored paper into chains and make garlands with little flags and cutout shapes. They also prepared little treats to decorate the tree with, especially walnuts, gingerbread figures, apples and lollipops.

    Wartime New Year tree decorations are especially valuable for Russian Christmas ornaments collectors. Produced at armaments' factories, often with little else but lengths of leftover wire, they were quite remarkable in their quality and artistic work: tiny gift baskets, birds' houses and red five-point stars. Other tree decorations depicted war characters and scenes, paratroopers being especially popular.

    In the late 1950s and the 1960s, as Nikita Khrushchev drew inspiration for his country's future in the revival of agriculture, especially sweet corn production, New Year tree ornaments were often shaped as various fruit and vegetables: apples, tomatoes, loaves of bread and countless corn cobs. At the same time, as most Russians were moving out of bombed-out houses and crowded communal apartments into new prefabricated flats with not enough room to swing a cat, let alone put up a New Year tree, sets of miniature tree decorations became popular, as well as small fake trees to put on the festive New Year's table.