We do not imagine New Year and Christmas without a tree, Santa Claus and Snow Maiden. But these attributes were present at the festival is not always.
Instead of oak
It is said that the tradition to decorate a Christmas tree for Christmas put saint boniface. Preaching Christianity to the pagans in the 8th century, he decided to cut down the sacred oak, which they worshiped, to show that the tree has no power. When the oak fell, he threw all the trees around except for eating. She is something of a Boniface and declared a tree Of Christ.
According to another version, the Christian church only appropriated an ancient custom. The tradition of decorating spruce was still among the ancient Celts. On the day of the winter solstice, December 21-22, it was supposed to appease the forest god by sacrificing animals to him. The insides of the unfortunate lambs were hung on a Christmas tree. Later, the ritual ceased to be so cruel – and the guts were replaced with apples, ears, figures of birds and animals.
The tradition to bring a fir-tree into a house appeared in Russia only in 1817 thanks to the empress Alexandre Feodorovna. The daughter of the King of Prussia decided to celebrate Christmas on the Western model and arranged a house in her private chambers.
The custom of celebrating New Year’s Eve under the tree lasted just over a hundred years. After the revolution and the Civil War, when the Bolsheviks finally came to power, the trees were recognized as a bourgeois relic and forgotten for a long time.
Rehabilitated Christmas tree only in 1935. Soviet statesman and propagandist Pavel Postyshev in his article in the newspaper Pravda, he called the attacks on the Christmas tree a “left bend,” and the tree went back to the homes of Soviet citizens. True, not as a symbol of Christmas, but as an indispensable attribute of the New Year.
Santa Claus and Santa
Cheerful kind old man with a bag of gifts – this is the usual image Santa Claus. However, our ancestors represented him completely different. Lord of the blizzard and cold weather among the ancient Slavs was called Karachun, and he was not a kind grandfather at all. He is a stern old man with a long white beard, in a blue caftan and with a magic staff. Touches them to the windows of houses – and they will instantly be covered with hoarfrost, touch the river – it will freeze in a minute.
Karachun does not feel sorry for the people – it happens that they freeze travelers to death, sometimes they steal children and take them to their cold underworld. Karachun’s retinue is also not at all like the cute reindeer of Santa Claus. Karachun is accompanied by birds-bogies, wolves-blizzards, bear-rods and the souls of people who have frozen to death.
After Christianity came to Russia, the Christian saints began to replace the pagan gods. And the evil Karachun came to replace St Nicholas, whose memorial day is December 19th. Catholics and Protestants called him Santa claus.
Unlike Karachun, St. Nicholas was a very kind man. From his youth he devoted himself to religion and eventually became a bishop. And in his free time from sermons, Nikolai did good deeds. And he tried to do it in secret, to avoid gratitude for his generosity.
According to one legend, once Nikolai found out about three beautiful sisters, whose father was too poor to give a dowry for them. Then dad failed to come up with anything better than to sell his daughters to a brothel. Saint Nicholas came to the rescue. Through the chimney, he threw three wallets filled with gold into the house of the unfortunate girls, who landed right in the stockings, dried by the stove. In memory of the good deeds of Nicholas in Europe, it was decided to give each other gifts. However, they did this not on the New Year, but on the saint’s birthday, December 19.
Later, in the era of the Reformation, the tradition was slightly changed – they began to give presents for Christmas in memory of the gifts brought by the wise men to the baby Jesus. Santa also became a symbol of Christmas even later – in 1823, after the poem “The Night Before Christmas”, written Clemente Clark Moore, became popular. The poem describes a family who, in anticipation of Christmas, is watching the reindeer team’s team carrying Santa Claus with a bag of gifts for children.
Russian Santa Claus found himself under the tree even later. In pre-revolutionary Russia, Christmas did without it. In Russian children, Santa Claus was still associated with the evil spirit of winter, therefore rare attempts to invite Father to the holiday according to the western tradition failed – children simply cried or scattered in fear. The case went smoothly only in the 30s of the 20th century, when the tales of Karachun were thoroughly forgotten. It was then that Santa Claus acquired the Snow Maiden, who softened the image of the stern old man and acted as an intermediary between him and the children.
Daughter or granddaughter?
The answer to the question of who the Snow Maiden is to Santa Claus is not so straightforward. Modern children are sure that she is his granddaughter. However, their great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers had a different opinion.
The fact is that the image of the Snow Maiden fell in love with children and adults after seeing the play of the same name. Alexandra Ostrovskogo. In this piece, the Snow Maiden accounted for Santa Claus daughter, and her mother was Spring-Krasna.
In Soviet times, the Snow Maiden turned from a girl into a little girl and became Grandfather of Grandfather Frost. Over the years, she grew up and again became a girl, as in the play by Ostrovsky, but her family ties with Santa Claus remained unchanged.
However, whoever the Snow Maiden was to Santa Claus, she was his constant companion on all Soviet Christmas trees. An exception was made only for a couple of years in the early 60s after the flight of Yuri Gagarin into space. Then, on a holiday instead of the Snow Maiden, Santa Claus was accompanied by an astronaut.
The first of January was once an ordinary working day. Only in 1947, by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the first day of the year was officially declared a holiday and a weekend.