I remember the first time I saw him. He was standing there on Red Square, kind enough to be available for taking pictures with visiting tourists. This was the mid-90’s, and I was visiting Russia for the first time. I assumed that Santa Claus was having a laundry day, but soon learned that despite what you have learned about Santa Claus’s worldwide tour on Christmas night, he actually does not visit Russia. The sad mercantile truth is, Santa never visited Russia until Coca-Cola commercials, and even with that, he still refuses to deliver any presents. And in a policy of reciprocity, Grandfather Frost does not bring any holiday cheer to the children of Santa Claus aligned nation. For the large man standing in red that cold morning on Red Square was not Santa Claus at all; it was Grandfather Frost.
After that, I didn’t consider this much and whenever the question came up, I would sort of say that “Grandfather Frost is Russia’s Santa Claus”. But that was entirely misleading as that would be something like saying “Czar Nikolai is the Woodrow Wilson of Russia”. True, they both fulfilled authority government positions at one point in history, but they were, in fact, two different personalities (I assume, I have no time for research in this completely rushed blog post), living two very completely different lives. So, shame on me for ever saying that Grandfather Frost is the Santa Claus of Russia and shame on you, if you ever thought that Santa Claus was the Grandfather Frost of the West.
|December, January, and February are conspicuously absent from this Moscow mall.|
Grandfather Frost is certainly not the Santa Claus of Russia. So, what is the difference between Grandfather Frost and Santa Claus? Allow me to enlighten you:
1) Outer Apparel: Both Grandfather Frost and Santa Claus wear red winter clothes. But that is where the similarities end. Let’s take a closer look. Santa Claus wears his pajamas hat. Grandfather Frost wears a hat, that frankly, I am too lazy to describe to you. Grandfather Frost’s coat reaches to the ground while Santa Claus’s coat is only reaches slightly below his waist with a black belt holding the whole affair together. As far as footwear is concerned, Santa Claus has his pair of trusty black boots while Grandfather Frost usually switches between a red pair of velvety footwear or occasionally felt boots for the exceptionally cold days. Furthermore, Grandfather Frost should have a staff (I am not speaking of paid workers, or an entourage, we’ll get to that later. I am speaking of a large wooden stick.). Santa Claus carries a whip for his reindeer.
2) Where They Live: Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. Grandfather Frost lives at Grand Ustyug.
3) Holiday: Santa Claus visits on the night before Christmas. Grandfather Frost, on the other hand, usually begins visiting schools and kindergartens during the week before New Year’s, but makes his most focused visiting effort on New Year’s day. Perhaps that is because in Russia, Christmas is a religious holiday surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.
4) How They Enter Your Home: Santa Claus enters your house through your chimney, presumably after smoking some doobies. Father Christmas just walks in through the door, after you invite him. Simultaneously sensible and anti-climactic.
5) Their Ride: Donner and Blitzen? Grandfather Frost assumes they are a German hip-hop duo. For although Grandfather Frost also rides a sleigh (although scuttlebutt maintains he spends most of New Year’s eve in taxis), it is not pulled by a senseless herd of wild deer. His sleigh is pulled by three white horses: December, January, and February.
6) Their Entourage: Santa Claus has reindeer, elves, and Mrs. Claus. Grandfather Frost is unmarried as far as I know. He has no chattering height challenged workmen. Instead, he has a strikingly gorgeous personal assistant who goes by the name of Snegurochka. Actually, I’m joking. Snegurochka is his granddaughter. Snegurochka might sound like a horrible name for your granddaughter, but it translates like “Little Snow Girl”. And who wouldn’t want a granddaughter named Little Snow Girl, or let’s say, for example, Sacajawea?
7) What They Eat: Santa Claus, of course, maintains his subsistence on a steady diet of milk and cookies. Grandfather Frost usually drinks vodka and eats a Russian version of potato salad. I have no time for further explanation of this point.
8) Their Demeanor: Santa Claus is jolly and hollow. Grandfather Frost is stern, but fair. Much like a traffic policeman.
9) Their Laughter: They both say, “Ho, ho, ho”. But Santa Claus does this mindlessly, as if he has only jelly between his ears. Grandfather Frost on the other hand, usually gives a thoughtful “Ho, ho, ho” that carries the weight of his vast experience with the history of all the children who were ever born in Russia.
10) Winning Their Favor: If you want Grandfather Frost to give you a present, you have to recite a poem or sing a song, etc. This is because Russia is a performance based culture. If you want Santa Claus to give you a present, you must be good all year round. He sees when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. So, be good for goodness’ sake. This is because Santa Claus is in cahoots with the NSA.
So, those are my top 10 differences between Grandfather Frost. Are there any differences that you can add? Have I misrepresented these East-West colleagues of holiday cheer? Who would you rather have bring you your presents during this holiday season? Comment below.