Around the world children are familiar with a “gift giver” that arrives magically on Christmas or New Year’s Eve to bring them presents. In America, Santa Clause has been a prominent figure since mid-19th century. The iconic symbol of Christmas, Santa’s modern image as a jolly old man in red clothing was popularized by none other than Coca Cola as a way to capture the magic of the Holidays.
Every year postal operators in many countries receive letters for Santa. Children around the world send their requests and wishes for Holiday presents. France leads the way with 1.7 million letters received in 2012. In the U.S. just over 1 million letters are received, while in Russia about 300,000 children are writing to Santa. Perhaps it is because in Russia, Grandpa Frost “Ded Moroz” still dominates the scene.
Born from old Slavic folklore as a grumpy winter dweller who liked to freeze and kidnap children, Ded Moroz was rehabilitated under the influence of Christian Orthodox traditions and cultural elements adopted from the Belgian and Dutch character Sinterklaas.
During Soviet times, Ded Moroz became the epitome of the New Year Holiday which replaced Christmas in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe. He traveled around lighting up fir trees (“Elka”) and brining presents to millions of kids. Following the collapse of Soviet rule, many local characters were resurrected to replace Ded Moroz. In Kiev Ukraine for example, Saint Mykolay instead of Ded Moroz was introduced as the main figure during the city’s winter festivities.
In modern Russia however, Ded Moroz is more popular than ever. The government has invested resources to boost old Grandpa Frost’s ratings even further. At the end of 1990s, then Mayor of Mosco officially declared the small town of (ironically named) Veliky Ustyug (population 31,600) in Vologda Oblast, Russia as the home of Ded Moroz. Since then, the tow has received just over 2million letters for Ded Moroz, from Russia and around the world.
Santa, while still popular is so last year. This year it’s all about Ded Moroz.