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The Snow Maiden
Report to Moderator Old 06-03-2002 01:51 PM
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By Mac Carey

On Christmas Eve in Russia, a young, beautiful girl with flowing hair appears to hand out presents to children. Her name is Snegurochka, "Snow Maiden," and she is accompanied by her grandfather, Ded Moroz, "Grandfather Frost", an old man with a flowing white beard and long red robe, similar to Santa Claus. They travel together from house to house in a painted sleigh called a "troika" (unfortunately earthbound) that is pulled by a team of horses. Like Santa Claus, Snow Maiden and Grandfather Frost deliver presents to well-behaved children, only they enter through the front door rather than the chimney. Like children in the west, young Russians often leave food and drinks for Snow Maiden and Grandfather Frost.

There are many different legends about how Snow Maiden came to be. A popular children's poem claims that one winter an older couple, sad because they didn't have any children, went outside and built a granddaughter out of the snow. Suddenly she came alive, and the couple named her Snegurochka and adopted her as their own granddaughter. The couple loved Snegurochka, but when the summer came she melted. In another story, Snow Maiden falls in love with a Slavic herdsman, but at springtime melts away.

Snow Maiden's popularity within Russian folklore is apparent from the number of poems and stories about her. She was even on a Russian postage stamp in 1994. There is a ballet and an opera based on versions of her tragic love story. In the ballet, Snow Maiden sees a young couple, Misgir and Coupava, playing in the forest. She falls in love with Misgir and follows him into the village. When she sees him again, it is at his wedding to Coupava. The warmth of her love melts her and she dies in Misgir's arms.

The opera is also a tragic love story, but this time Snow Maiden is the sixteen-year-old daughter of Fairy Spring and Winter. Snow Maiden must be protected from the sun god, who can kill her. She and Misgir fall in love (in this version he leaves Coupava) but the warmth of the sun god eventually warms Snow Maiden, and like in the ballet, she melts.

Snow Maiden is always depicted as young and beautiful, with long flowing blonde or auburn hair. She wears traditional Russian style lace up boots and a long light blue robe with white fur trim on the collar and cuffs. Snowflakes are commonly associated with her; her robe often has snowflakes on it. Sometimes too she is wearing a snowflake shaped crown, while other times she is shown wearing a fur hat that matches the trim on her robe.

Many Russian children expect a visit from Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden twice a year, at Christmas and New Year's. This is because the Soviet government banned Christmas celebrations in 1917. They also began to eradicate Christmas traditions, so people in Russia and other Eastern bloc countries would perform their usual Christmas customs on New Year's Day in order to make them seem like secular traditions. This included the arrival of Snow Maiden and Grandfather Frost. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 90's, people began celebrating their Christmas traditions again on Christmas day, while continuing to celebrate them on New Year's as well. So now Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden must make two trips across the Russian tundra in their horse drawn sleigh!
This article is copyrighted. Use of this article in part or whole is strictly prohibited. For reprint, quotation, or excerpt use please contact Merry Network LLC.

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