Training Russian Santas

Russian Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost, is seen as the main winter wizard by children. Source: RIA Novosti

Russian Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost, is seen as the main winter wizard by children. Source: RIA Novosti

The Moscow City Children's Creativity Center introduces special courses for those who want to turn into Grandfather Frost, a professional winter wizard.

Students of the Grandfather Frost School will be introduced to the history of Russia's favorite fairy-tale character and study all the ancient legends that mention him. Classes are taught by specialists in organizing New Year and Christmas holiday festivities: stage directors, script writers, composers, makeup experts, teachers and psychologists.

“It is pure pleasure to teach the amateur Grandfather Frosts and Snow Maidens-to-be. They are really committed to learning, so even three weeks is enough time to unlock the potential of an interested student,” stage director Sergei Goppen says.

Most students enrolled in the Grandfather Frost School are female. One of them, Galina Nikulina, a teacher and event organizer at a kindergarten, has worn a cotton wool beard during New Year celebrations for almost a quarter of a century now.

“During matinée performances at kindergartens, Grandfather Frost does not necessarily have to be enacted by a man. Little children could get scared, but they already know their teachers,” says Nikulina.

Following the three weeks of studies, the students have to take an exam in front of their main audience – children. Alumni receive a brightly-colored diploma with the stamp of the Russian Grandfather Frost and a certificate from the Moscow Institute of Open Education that confirms completion of an advanced course in organizing New Year events for children.

Finals at this special school are probably the only test in the Russian educational system that really looks like a holiday.

The test is divided into three steps: first, the beginning wizards make an original presentation of their character, then they answer children’s questions, and finally, they sing and dance in a ring around the New Year tree.

Once the test is over, the children are asked to add more qualifications to the students’ diplomas: the most wizardly, the biggest, the most polite, energetic, generous, funny, etc.

The Grandfather Frost School. Source: RBTH

“To become a professional Grandfather Frost or his granddaughter Snow Maiden, you have to meet certain criteria. But only children can actually grade the newly minted wizards and fairies, since adults have an entirely different idea of fairy-tale characters,” the school's artistic director, Alexander Frolov, says.

The Grandfather Frost School has been operating since 2000, its main mission being to shape a contemporary culture of festivities and shows for children in Russia. Every winter, over 30 new students join the school to become professional organizers of holiday season celebrations. Apart from Grandfather Frost or the Snow Maiden, students also have an opportunity to become certified Leshys (woodland spirits), Baba Yagas (witches) or Snowmen.

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