The Perception of Santa Claus in Ukraine

The Differences Between St. Nicholas and Father Frost

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There are two ways to address Santa Claus in Ukraine, he can go by the name of Svyatyy Mykolay, which is Saint Nicholas (also spelled Sviatyij Mykolai) or by Did Moroz, which means Father Frost.

If you are planning a visit to Ukraine at Christmastime, it might be a good idea to learn a little bit more about who visits children and showers them with gifts. Since a majority of Ukrainians are Eastern Orthodox, most of the country celebrates Christmas Day on January 7 in accordance with the Orthodox religious calendar.

Because traditions differ from region to region and family to family, it may be either Svyatyy Mykolay or Did Moroz who visits children for the Ukrainian Christmas holidays, and he may visit on Saint Nicholas Day, Christmas Eve, or both.

St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas Day, or Svyatyy Mykolay, is a celebration of one of the country's most important saints. It is a time for charity. The Ukrainian president usually issues a statement wishing Ukrainians and Ukrainian children a happy St. Nicholas Day with an admonition to remember the less fortunate on this day.

In predominantly Orthodox nations, the Day of St. Nicholas is observed on December 19, which is when Svyatyy Mykolay is more likely to make an appearance in the Ukraine because of the majority of Ukraine's population associating with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Ukraine does have a decently sized Roman Catholic population, so if you are visiting Ukraine on December 6, you may hear about Svyatyy Mykolay visiting children with presents that day, according to the Roman Catholic calendar.

The Ukrainian St. Nick is usually dressed in red bishop's robe and a hat. He is accompanied by angels, or sometimes an angel and a devil, which are reminders of both the good and bad in a child's behavior. This is the day he dispenses gifts to children. He may also leave a switch or a willow branch under a child's pillow to warn them to be on their best behavior.

The tradition of Sviatyij Mykolai is also associated with the beginning of the cold weather.

Father Frost

Like Russia's Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, sometimes called Grandfather Frost, Did Moroz is a Christmas figure who brings gifts to children on New Year's Eve. He is the equivalent of Father Christmas in American tradition. Did Moroz wears a heel-length fur coat, a semi-round fur hat, and felt boots on his feet. He has a long white beard. He walks with a long magic staff and sometimes rides a carriage. Did Moroz is usually accompanied by his granddaughter, Snihuronka, also known as the snow maiden, who wears long silver-blue robes and a furry cap or a snowflake-like crown.

The origins of the character of Did Moroz predate Christianity as a Slavic wizard of winter, in some books he is a son of Slavic pagan gods. In Slavic mythology, Frost is known as a snow demon.