One version of Snegurochka.

One version of Snegurochka.

With the festive season upon us, I volunteered to write about the tradition of women and gift-giving at this time of joy. Over the centuries, people across the world have celebrated winter in all its varying forms, from Saturnalia to Yule. In some cultures, women occupy a prominent position in their folklore; not least among them are Mrs Claus, Babouschka, Snegurochka, and La Befana.

What with all this hype over a little film called Frozen, I figured that Snegurochka would be an apt choice. She has, at varying points in her existence, been associated with both Christmas and New Year, as the daughter of Father Frost and the Snow Queen. In one tradition, Snegurochka is a girl born of snow, who dies when she partakes in the winter tradition of jumping over a fire and evaporates. In another tale, she lives in the Winter Forest created by her Father Frost. Snegurochka is unable to fall in love, but when her Mother Spring gives her the gift of love, Snegurochka is killed by its warmth when she leaves the forest to be with her love. Snegurochka however does not bring gifts at Christmas….

Babouschka is a lonely old lady who decides to hold a party for her friends, to warm the long winter nights. When she hears a knock at the door, Babouschka answers thinking her friends have arrived. Opening the door, she is greeted by a Wise Man who tells her of a beautiful star he is following to lead him to a newborn baby. Babouschka apologises and turns him away, for she has prepared for her party for so long that she could not and would not cancel now when she had been so looking forward to it. The Wise Man leaves and Babouschka busies herself with preparations. Another knock comes and Babouschka opens the door to another Wise Man who tells her of a beautiful star he is following to lead him to a newborn baby. Babouschka, a little more tempted this time, again has to turn the man away. She closed the door and once again busied herself with preparations. The third knock at the door, Babouschka was convinced were her long-awaited friends. She opens the door to yet another Wise Man who tells her of a beautiful star they are following to lead him to a newborn baby. Babouschka, evermore intrigued and yearning to see this baby, turned the Man away and said she would catch up with the him and his companions when the party was finished. True to her word, Babouschka set out to follow this beautiful star which would lead her to the Wise Men and to that newborn baby.

Now here is where I have read two different endings to the story… In one, Babouschka takes with her al the presents in her house which she can find to give to this baby. Unable to find him, she instead gives these gifts to children each year, until one day when she is very old, the Wise Men and the baby come to her, and all the families to whom she has given joy over the years gather too to thank her. In another version of the tale, Babouschka seeks out the baby and the Wise Men and never finds them, searching ‘til the end of her days.

Personally, I prefer the first ending. So on that note, everyone, have a Merry Christmas, and if you hear a knock on the door, you may open it to find Babouschka searching for that newborn baby…

-Tilly Aspbury
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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