January 01, 2000

The Secret Life of a Russian Santa Claus

The New Year’s Eve visit of Father Frost (Ded Moroz — Russia’s version of Santa Claus) is a cherished tradition in Russia. At least once in their young lives, little children are kept up late to see a masqueraded friend or relative come around and hand out toys to good little boys and girls ... And while the kids’ and parents’ side of this tradition’s “story” are easy to imagine, much less is known about those who are imposed upon to don the red robe and white beard ... So Russian Life asked a modern day Russian Santa Claus, Alexei Pospelov, to share his story.

It was my 13th visit and, as Father Frost for the Moscow design bureau Salyut, I was as red as my costume. Not that I minded the ominous number 13. I am never superstitious, not even on New Year’s Eve! It was just that the hosts were being far too hospitable. Instead of the routine ugoscheniye (treat) at the entrance to the apartment (a shot of vodka, plus a salty snack picked from a plate with a fork), they insisted on offering Marina (my Snegurochka, or Snowmaiden) and I two seats of honor at the New Year’s table.

Of course, I had only myself to blame for the dinner invitation. Sure, the vodka shot had gone down easily. But, after twelve previous “treats,” I had a hard time spearing a marinated mushroom from a bowl full of juicy marinade. So the young host, Irina, took pity on me. “Hey, take your time! Why don’t you sit with us for a while? The kuranty [Kremlin tower bells] have already struck 12! No sweat.”

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