Iced latte, please. Extra ice. I don’t do well with anything warm.
I am Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden of Russia. Each January, you can spot me at New Years parties and events for children alongside Ded Moroz—“Grandfather Frost”. Although the old man’s beard and red suit may draw up images of Santa Clause, the two are unrelated. Grandfather Frost’s origins come from Slavic paganism, predating Christianity, and he is known as the wizard of winter. And nowadays, I’m usually known as his granddaughter and helper.
But where did I really come from? It depends on which version of my story you hear.
In one folk tale, I was born to common people. Or rather, made by them out of—what else?—snow! An elderly couple, feeling regretful that they never had children of their own, one day decided to make one out of snow. They lovingly packed freshly fallen snow into the shape of a girl, using a red ribbon for my mouth and blue beads for my eyes. To their surprise, I then came to life, introducing myself to them as the Snow Maiden! They adopted me as their daughter, and together we spent a winter full of love and joy. But when spring came, my energy waned. The sun had grown stronger, and my mood grew as damp as the melting snow. Nothing could lift the heaviness in my icy heart. I refused to leave the house, growing quiet and still.
One day, some village girls came by wanting to cheer me up, and convinced me to come on a walk in the woods. While we walked, evening fell, and the air turned sharply cold. One girl made a fire to keep everyone warm. They all started to play a game, jumping over the flames. Their laughter and friendship had warmed my heart, and I joined in the fun. I drew a breath and, with a running leap, bounded over the bonfire. I was lighter than air. I was floating. Then I was gone. My body had melted into a vapor. A true child of the snow, I was never meant to survive the warmer season.
The other version of my story is equally sad. In this story, I was the daughter of Spring and Ded Moroz, and lived in their winter forest. Although I was blessed with immortality, I was unable to love like normal humans do, and therefore felt extremely lonely. I longed to feel true love more than anything. One day, my mother, Spring, pitied me and gifted me a Love Wreath that granted me this ability. But right after I fell in love and left the winter forest, the warmth of love melted my heart, and I melted along with it.
Again, warmth is just not for me.
My origin stories may be sad, but that doesn’t stop me from spreading cheer to children each year. I first showed up in the 19th century as a Christmas character alongside Ded Moroz. But when the Soviet Union banned the celebration of Christmas, many holiday traditions, including us, were transplanted to New Year’s Eve instead.
Because of this, the year’s end remains the biggest holiday in Russia. It’s when feasts are eaten at home, and children eagerly await the arrival of Ded Moroz and I to leave presents under their tree. We also make appearances at holiday events, arriving on our troika—a sleigh pulled by three horses. Little girls love dressing up as me in my beautiful winter attire. Traditionally, I wore white clothing and a crown made of silver and pearls. Nowadays, I’m usually seen sporting a light blue costume, with my crown often replaced by a fur-lined hat or a snowflake crown. Whichever I’m wearing, I’m undeniably cute and spirited, with a radiant smile.
And whatever my true origins, whichever holiday I’m representing, I’m still an enduring symbol of love that lights up the bleak winter. Doesn’t that just warm your heart?