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December 25, 2008


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Merry Christmas from Brisbane, wishing you a warm festive season and a prosperous 2009.
Ignore the doomsayers we will all prevail if we think positive like Baboushka.
Good luck from The Ernest Scribe.

Milan Samardzic

Well, it's been a while, but your writing skills only seem to excel dear Doug. Wishing you a wonderful 2009 and Merry Christmas (we just had it 2 days ago, speaking of Orthodox kick...).

Lots of love from Belgrade,



Very interesting. The story of Baboushka as Russian Santa appears on many English-language websites, but is unknown in Russia. I found one Russian version of this story on the web, but it's clearly a translation made just to give the English text next to it a bit of Cyrillic-flavored authenticity. The texture of the narrative is such that you can't translate it into the Russian folk-tale idiom.

In celebrating end-of-the-year holidays Russians are much like the Turks. The traditions of the tree and the presents were imported from Western Europe and for various reasons have come to be associated with the New Year instead.

Here's translation of an edict by Peter the Great that doesn't do justice to his colorful colloquialisms:

Inasmuch as the new year in Russia is reckoned in many ways, from this day on you are to stop messing with people's heads and reckon the new year throughout the land on the first of January, and in keeping with this auspicious occasion and merriment you are to congratulate each other with the new year and wish each other success in all dealings and familial well-being. To mark the new year you are to make decorations out of firs, entertain children and have them ride down snow hills on sleds. While adults are not to indulge in boozing and brawls, as for that there are enough days already. Peter I, 15 December, 1699.

Doug M.

Michael -- that's fascinating! So the story is bogus? Where then might it have come from?

Doug M.


You piqued my curiosity. My first guess was that Ruth Robbins and Nicolas Sidjakov took the legend of La Befana and relocated it to a more exotic locale, while the Russian culture donated the word "babushka". You can't use it as a name for a folk tale character in Russian ("...a lady called Grandma..."), but it works in translation.

Then I looked up the book at Amazon and its introduction says: "when the old Russian folk tale of Baboushka came to [Ruth Robbins'] attention..."

Truth? Myth? Worldwide conspiracy?

I'll leave that for a more inquisitive spirit to puzzle out.

Will Baird

damnit, I keep meaning to ask Lyuda about this and keep forgetting. The story, btw, Doug isn't one that Lyuda's related to me what-so-ever wrt Russian/Ukrainian Xmas traditions.

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