Russian Tidbit of the Day: Дед Мороз-Карачун

November 26, 2012

So, I’ve decided that I’m just going to share interesting tidbits about Christmas and New Years traditions.  I’ve been gathering lots of interesting information and been asking friends about their childhood memories of Christmas in Soviet times and so on.  So I should have some good content for the next month or so.

So I found an interesting article on Argumenty i Fakty, the Russian newspaper about the origins of Дед Мороз. I’ll just write of few of the interesting things here over the course of the week.

My most popular posts are always the ones about Slavic mythology and Christmas so, hey, why not combine the two?

So the article mentions that in pagan times there were also winter-oriented gods, but they weren’t always the jolly character that we now know as Father Frost. One of the names that is mentioned is

Карачун

In doing some research I found that this was the Slavic god not only of winter but also of the underworld. His other name is Чернобог which means ‘Black god’.

His holiday was celebrated on December 21st, on winter solstice.

The ancient Slavs believed that it was he that brought about the frost and the blizzards.

This wikipedia article says that карачун/корочун was the Slavic name of the Christmas fast that began on the 12th of December.

The English version of the article says that “Modern scholars tend to associate this holiday with the ancestor worship. On this day Western Slavs lit fires at cemeteries to keep their loved ones warm, and organized feasts to honour the dead and keep them fed. They also lit wooden logs at local crossroads. In some Slavic languages, the word came to denote unexpected death of a young person and the evil spirit that shortens life.”

And then get this (I get really excited by nerdy things like this) : “In Romanian the name Crăciun changes its sense when the christianisation became, and means today “Christmas“.

Wow. That’s cool.

So historically карачун was associated with death and could maybe even be compared to our Grim Reaper.  An old saying goes, “к нему пришел карачун” which literally means, “Karachun came to him” and is another way of saying that a person died. Wow, how’d we get from that to the “right, jolly old elf” that we now know as Father Frost?  We’ll talk about it some more tomorrow.  Stay tuned and avoid Karachun.

 

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