Monday, December 24, 2007

Slavic Santa and his Sexy Sidekick

The Christmas season is upon us, and there are several peculiar customs of this season in Russia, compared to the West. Some are ancient, and some more recent interpretations on the celebrations of pagan, roman and christian rituals around this time of year.

The first oddity I found upon my arrival is the focus on New Years, rather than Christmas. The traditional greeting is "с новым годом", (Happy New Year), rather than "Merry Christmas!" There are New Year's trees and New Year's presents. December 25th is a typical working day.

The reason for this, it appears, is that shortly after the revolution, the Soviets banned Christmas celebrations and moved the comparatively safer celebrations (no nativity) to the more reliablty athiest New Year's date of December 31. More recently, with the ascendancy of the Orthodox Church, Christmas has been making a comeback, with the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebrated on January 7th in 2008.

The central figure in all of this is Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost. He is a Santa-like figure (although don't mention this to Russians), and according to local press, Santa is derived from Ded Moroz. The two are similar in appearance, elderly with long beard, white hair, long robes, although the Russian figure tends to be slimmer, walks with a staff, and can be seen in either blue or red robes.

Like seemingly every elderly man able to give gifts in Russia, Ded Moroz is constantly accompanied by a svelte young girl, in this case known as Snegurochka. This gorgeous young maiden is historically derived from a snow sprite, and it's unclear exactly why she got paired with Ded Moroz, but it is Russia, after all, so there has to a be a beautiful girl around someplace. Those pictured here are wearing a "sexy snegurochka" outfit sold online for girls to wear to New Years parties.

According to the Moscow Times, the increasing wealth in Russia is increasing demand for Ded Morozes and Snegurochki to appear at New Years parties. Demanding Russians are apparently hard to please (really?). "Wish lists include Ded Morozes who arrive by parachute, recite rap, perform tricks and help Snegurochka take off her clothes.

"Agencies get requests for Ded Morozes who have dark skin, can play the accordion or can impersonate famous Russian politicians.

"The Snegurochka provided by the Ded Moroz Agency promises to put on a striptease. She travels with Ded Moroz and a company of jugglers with burning torches and fairy-tale characters.

"Not to be outdone, the Moscow Father Frost Service promises Ded Morozes who can parachute, scale high apartment buildings to surprise guests through the window, and perform acrobatic tricks in gigantic inflatable suits. The agency's pride is a rather un-Russian Ded Moroz who turns into Elvis Presley. Snegurochka turns into Marilyn Monroe. "
Apparently it's not all fun & games for these Ded's for hire. "A tough challenge for Ded Moroz are corporate parties with drunk clients who try to get the pair intoxicated and sexually harass Snegurochka, Solodov said." [Really? In Russia? Shocking Surprise #1]

"Nina, a Snegurochka and phone operator for New Year, said low-budget, all-female parties were her least favorite. The women at these parties tend to be "bitchy," she said." [Shocking Surprise #2]


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