Somerville, Mass - This year for the holidays, Jerry painted a statue of Grandfather Frost to sit on our front porch. Grandfather Frost, or Ded Moroz, is the Russian Santa Claus. Instead of being fat and jolly and dressing in red, Ded Moroz is tall and stern and he wears a decorative blue robe. And instead of elves, he hangs out with his grand-daughter Snegurochka, or Snow Girl. He rides in a traditional troika, pulled by flying horses. And he shows up with gifts on New Year's Eve (as opposed to Orthodox Christmas, which takes place several days later on January 6).
In the early years of the Soviet Union, the regime tried to ban anything that hinted of folk traditions, religious practices or bourgeois pettiness. Ded Moroz was guilty of all three, and he was declared to be "an ally of the priest and the kulak" (the latter being the much-maligned wealthy peasant). Being a friend of holy and rich men does not sound so bad to you and me, but in the Soviet era, it amounted to being an enemy of the people. How's that for irony… You spend all that effort to deliver gifts to good children all over the world only to be branded an enemy of the people!
This condemnation did not last too long, however. The regime soon learned that characters like Ded Moroz and Snegurochka could be used to promote its propagandistic messages of the glories of communism.
Ded Moroz might come flying in on a rocket ship, glorifying the accomplishments of the space program.
Grandfather Frost was not only a gift-bearing, bearded old man, but also a worker, a soldier, an activist… or perhaps an cosmonaut (how else would he be able to navigate his way around the world in a single night?). But he was certainly a man of the people.
And like the Star of Bethlehem, the Red Star of Communism always shone in the sky, guiding the people to their bright future!