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New Year is the principal winter holiday, as opposed to Christmas. It is universally recognized as such by both secular and religious people. Whereas New Year is mostly an occasion merely for parties and drinking in the West, most of the traditions associated with Christmas fall on New Year in Russia. The welcoming of the new year is considered the most significant occasion of the winter.
The New Year's tree is identical to a Christmas tree in the West. It is decorated in the same way, with ornaments, lights and garland. Stars are usually perched atop the tree rather than angels, and ornaments of a religious nature as well as nativity scenes are notably absent.
Folklore holds that Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost") is charged with the responsibility for delivering presents on New Year's Eve. He is a large, bearded and grandfatherly man resembling Santa Claus, although he has no saintly identity, nor sleigh nor reindeer. He is sometimes said to be dressed in blue rather than red - this is a point of contention. Either way, he emerges on New Year's Eve with a gargantuan, overflowing sack of gifts and dispenses them to each family. The actual procedure of doing this is not a significant component of the mythology; he doesn't come down the chimney, but it doesn't really matter how he gets into your dwelling. Perhaps through the front door, perhaps through the window - who knows?
Instead of elves to help him, Ded Moroz has his grand-daughter Snegurochka ("Snowy"), with whom he lives somewhere in the northern forest. Snegurochka is generally portrayed as an attractive young blonde girl, often dressed in light winter attire and sometimes a red cap. Presents are also given on New Year. There is no requirement of waiting until the morning of New Year's Day to open them; instead, they are usually presented and opened shortly after greeting the New Year at midnight.
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