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History and tradition surrounding Jan. 1 holiday in Russia

September 11th, 2017

A portion of the "From Russia with Art" exhibit at Kauffman Museum is devoted to figurines of Father Christmas (Ded Moroz) and his granddaughter, the Snowmaiden (Snegurochka), who are thought to distribute presents on Dec. 31 as Russian families begin their New Year celebrations on Jan. 1, the most popular holiday in Russia. The Jan. 1 date for the holiday began in 1699 at the order of Peter the Great, who required that rich people were to decorate the streets with trees and poor people were to put fir branches over their house gates for seven days. In the 1830s, wealthy Germans living in St. Petersburg, decorated fir trees inside their homes, and soon the Russians did as well.

On Dec. 31, Russian families gather around their decorated fir tree for gift opening. Father Frost passes out gifts. The Snowmaiden loves and protects all animals. In artwork, she is usually depicted in the winter woods with birds and bunnies.

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