December's good man – Dedek Mraz from Kamniška Bistrica
Dedek Mraz is a mythological benefactor who presents gifts to children in the week before the New Year, but most often on the night from December 31 to January 1. He established himself in Slovene culture during the time of socialist Yugoslavia. It is based on Russian legends from 1930, where he is called Ded Mroz and is married to Women Old Winter, who in Russian is called Zima Staruha.
Maksim Gaspari, Zima Staruha
However, in Slovenia it was the rule that Dedek Mraz lived below Triglav and, alternatively, in other alpine valleys and foothills. So, the Kamnik’s Dedek Mraz comes from Kamniška Bistrica. In 1952, the painter Maksim Gaspari standardized his appearance with drawings. The dress he wears is Slovenian costume, with Slovenian patterns on a long fur coat and a traditional dove on her head. It was first published on the cover of children magazine Ciciban in December 1949 by the painter Janez Vidic, but Dedek Mraz usually still wore a Russian white coat. He was only dressed in a fur coat by Maksim Gaspari, precisely in order to separate himself from the Russian original. In 1952, the Republic Committee of the Association of Friends of Youth, which issued three of Gaspari’s postcards, “legalized” Gaspari’s image of Dedek Mraz. Few public opponents of the regime insulted him with the red Nicholas. But Dedek Mraz took hold and in the following decades bravely walked the streets and squares of Slovenia.
Dedek Mraz loves all children very much and does not make any differences between them. There are many different songs about him. Even today, the character of Dedek Mraz appears in some companies and institutions, when in December he presents gifts to employees’ children and at various public events for children in major Slovenian cities, theatres, cultural centres, cinemas and kindergartens and primary schools.
GRAY WINTER HAT WHITE BEARD OR ICONOGRAPHIC IMAGE OF DEDEK MRAZ
The main characteristics that distinguish Dedek Mraz in Slovenia from Santa Claus and St. Nicholas: visually – he has a shorter gray beard and gray hair; is a real being; an older well-preserved man of clear thoughts. He lives below Triglav and alternatively on Pohorje or in the valley of Kamniška Bistrica. He presents gifts to children on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s morning in the home circle. In companies, however, it can be much earlier – in December from St. Nicholas onwards once. He is dressed in a sheepskin coat with inverted hair and decorated with Slovenian ornaments, he has a walking stick in his hand, a dormouse with a spruce twig stuck on his head, and woollen gloves with thumbs on his hands. He is wearing high leather boots. He distributes gifts from a basket or from cereal kits of a knitted checker with Slovenian ornaments. He usually has no companions, but he can be accompanied by dwarves, animals, snowflakes, snowmen, bears, rabbits and other creatures from folk tales and fairy tales.
THE ARRIVAL OF DEDEK MRAZ IN SLOVENIAN CULTURE
After the Second World War, the celebration of St. Nicholas and the Christmas holidays was no longer desirable. Although we must mention that until 1952, December 25 was still a holiday and a day off. But instead of Christmas, they increasingly promoted the celebration of the New Year tree. It was first organized in 1948 in Ljubljana. In the autumn of 1949, the Executive Committee of the People’s Education of Slovenia met and prepared instructions for celebrating the New Year. This one had to endow ALL the children. The celebrations were initially organized by members of the Women’s Anti-Fascist Front, but later Dedek Mraz was adopted by the Association of Friends of Youth: they translated Marina Šurinova’s play Dedek Mraz. Dedek Mraz came to every Slovenian village and town by decree. We learn from the newspaper that in 1952 it was the first procession in Ljubljana, and Dedek Mraz on a wagon was “an old, respectable Slovenian father with a tap in his mouth”.
ICONOGRAPHY OF NEW YEAR’S TREE
In the beginning, of course, it was real – captured in the nearby forest, which was all state anyway. Homemade simple biscuits made of flour, water and a little sugar could also be decorations. Or sugar candies wrapped in multi-coloured glitter papers or cellophane. More wealthy people bought silver or gold balls – balls of material that the force liked to scatter into a thousand pieces. Some also bravely attached miracle candles to the tree. In the end, you could add specially purchased hair or spray it all together with an artificial reception – imitation snow.
HOW IT WAS IN KAMNIK
He lives in Kamniška Bistrica,
endows all children.
It may endow us too
our good old Dedek Mraz!
In the period from 1960 to 1990, Dedek Mraz regularly gifted the children of employees, workers in collectives. The children wrote him songs or wish lists.
The union’s Dedek Mraz often brought gifts from the repertoire of the factory he was gifting. For example, towels at Svilanit, boots at Utok, a lot of room for manoeuvre had the Trade Company Kočna. But it is the author of this record who remembers the annual disappointment after eagerly opening the gift when he was confronted with a bale of terry cloth ready to tailor children’s pyjamas. A special program was also prepared by Kamnik primary schools, which were associated with local companies. Thus, the traditional collaboration between the Tomo Brejc Elementary School with factory Titan and the Tuhinj Elementary School with the Utok factory.
In the first years of its operation in the years from 1982 to 1985, the Pedenjmožic Youth Cultural Association also prepared a children’s play, which it offered for performance to Kamnik’s companies or the surrounding local communities.
After gaining independence in 1991, Dedek Mraz also started competing with Santa Claus in red in Coca-Cola, who was previously mostly impersonal. But the children somehow unify the image of Dedek Mraz and Santa Claus and don’t worry too much about the duplication. In the end, it doesn’t even matter if the good man is of red or black descent, just to bring gifts. Dedek Mraz was created on the initiative of the communist authorities, but over the years he went beyond ideological frameworks and thus became part of the Slovenian December tradition. Thus, in Slovenia, to the great joy of children, gifts are brought by three good men: Saint Nicholas, Dedek Mraz, Santa Claus.
Dedek Mraz wishes a happy New Year😜author of the text BONAVITA DIETRICH, MMK