Grandfather Frost

“In which Russian Grandfather Frost crosses the hearth to the tree and bumps straight into British Father Christmas backing out of the fireplace. Together they share a mince pie, a large brandy and a shot of vodka with a slice of pickled fish and discuss mutual concerns, such as the delicate art of eating without dipping one’s cloak sleeves or beard in the borsch.”

DedMoroz1Welcome to a sparkly brand new year, and welcome to my world, where the Russian version of Father Christmas and Santa himself cross paths every year as the Little One gets bigger and asks more questions. This year we spent the holiday season back in London, and consequently had to write to Father Christmas to explain that we wouldn’t be in Moscow as usual. In the letter there was a tiny drawing of an apartment in Moscow, crossed out in red crayon, and a wobbly sketch of a flat in London with a big, fat tick next to it. That should explain things clearly, we agreed, and posted the letter into my handbag.

Building family traditions that successfully coexist with wider cultural rituals is part of the challenge of life, and can be even more complicated (and expensive) for a multi-cultural family. In our house, British Father Christmas turns up during the night on the 24th of December, wherever we are (assuming we have been good of course). The Russian equivalent, Ded Maroz (Grandfather Frost) arrives later, on the 31st, bringing the presents that appear beneath the tree and ushering in the New Year. One of the sharp zaps of culture shock for me each year in Moscow is the silent passing of the 25th December. However much Christmas we manage to make in our home, the rest of Russia is busy going about a very ordinary business day, with minimal decoration or fuss. Meanwhile, back in England, the Little One’s Russian father goes out (despite warnings) to buy bread and milk on the 25th of December. Ho ho ho!

Like a deck of cards sifting through our fingers, we shuffle the traditions, symbols and stories of one culture into those of another. How will the game play out this year?

I hope it plays out well for you. I wish you enough challenge, enough peace, and enough of whatever you need. Happy New Year!


  1. Lovely! Thank you! And this year I blessed my Russians for not needing a big deal on 25th. Now we are just waiting for Old New Year on 13th Jan :)

  2. I know! Old New Year, New Old Year… bring on the New Old Me. No – the New new Me!

  3. Your life is even more magical with multiple Santas and new beginnings! Xo

  4. That’s true – I sometimes forget to see the magic of it all in amongst the stresses of trying to organise everything. Please keep reminding me! It’s Russian Christmas day today, so Merry Christmas all over again!

  5. Happy New Year… how wonderful to be able to combine lots of exciting traditions for your little one :-) We too had a letter with directions to where we would be on the big day added in at the very last minute… it’s all good fun! Wishing you a wonderful 2014

    • I hope it’s a great year for you and your family. Wishing that your wishes come true.

  6. Hello

    We’re a class of 6 and 7 year olds in Norfolk, UK, and found your blog while looking for blogs from all the different continents of the world.

    Our topic for this term is adventurers and explorers. We’re trying to get as many visits to our blog as possible from different parts of the world, and would love a visit from Russia if you have the time. Our blog is at

    From Robins Class @ Lingwood Primary School, Norfolk, UK

  7. Fascinating! I am always intrigued by German and Dutch friends who celebrate St Nicholas on the 5th too, and what people eat at Christmas…. I’m sure in one country people keep a fish in the bath so it is fresh for the big day….hmm, now where was that?

    • I haven’t found a fish in anyone’s bath yet, but there’s always time…! I hope this year brings you and your family peace, learning and fun.

  8. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for your comment on our blog. Our teacher showed us the picture of the skating rink in Red Square that you sent to us. It looks huge and it must be great fun to skate in such an impressive and well-known place.

    One of our class has a question for you about Moscow, which we wonder if you could help us with. His letter to you goes as follows,


    I am Matthew from the UK. I am coming to Moscow Russia and I do believe that is where you are. I am coming to Moscow in our school holidays with my mum and dad and sister. My Dad is worried about using the underground. I don’t know why. Could you please send him a few tips on how to use the Moscow underground to stop him worrying?

    Thanks from Matthew”

    Hope you can help,

    From Robins Class – Year 2 – Lingwood Primary School, Norfolk, UK (

  9. Hello Robins Class!
    Matthew, you and your family will have a great time in Moscow! The simplest answer to your Moscow metro question is to tell your Dad that you all should learn the Russian alphabet before you come. The metro is very efficient, and many of the stations are really beautiful. You can reassure him that when I first came here and got lost on the metro, I was rescued more than once by a friendly Russian person. Why learn the alphabet? Because everything is written only in Russian, and Russian letters can be confusing. Some of them look exactly like English letters, but when you say them, they’re different. For example: this – P – is P for panda, right? In Russian it’s spoken as ‘R’, like for Russia. And in English, this – B – is B for banana, right? Well, in Russian it’s pronounced ‘V’ for ‘very’. So if someone tells you the name of a metro station, you have to be careful when following the map. Tell Dad that if he has an iPad, there’s a good Moscow metro map App which is very helpful :)
    Greetings from very chilly Moscow (it’s minus 20 now) to all your class and teacher.