About Sochi Olympics, fishing as a sport, magic brethren and fluency in foreign languages
- What if I pull your beard, Granddaddy? Literally, I mean. Would you mind?
- Do, please. For you I’ll make an exception. But if every inquisitive person will be coming up to me to fiddle with my beard, not much of it will be left by New Year’s Eve, I’m afraid. A flock of little kids came to see me earlier today. One very brave little boy pulled out a hair out of my beard and started reciting magic words: Ajji Majji la Tarajji. ‘My dear young friend,’ I had to explain to him, ‘I’m not the one you take me for. I’m not a Persian genie, I’m from a different fairy tale.’
- But everybody wants to be certain yours is a real beard, not one made of cotton.
- But what makes you so suspicious from the outset, my friend? What cotton are you talking about? It’s a real beard.
- Just recently you vowed you’d have your beard shaved off if Russia won the 2018 World Football Cup.
- Not every word of mine should be taken literally. Your fellow journalists didn’t’ realize it was a figure of speech. Say when one right and noble gentleman, overpowered by joy, shouts to another gentleman, as right and noble: “Let me give you a kiss!” it does not necessarily mean he is really about to do so. I just tried to let everybody know how strongly I wished to see our team succeed in this contest our country will host. I do have confidence in our guys!
Remember what was being said and written about Russia’s Olympic athletes on the eve of the Sochi Games? Many doubted they could succeed or just perform decently. It turned out otherwise. They were excellent. Real heroes. I saw that for myself
- Were you there at that time?
- Why, of course! My residence was in the heart of the Olympic Park. A very convenient location it was. You could not miss it. There were long lines to the memorabilia shop selling souvenirs and to the office of yours truly all day. Not only sports fans, but also athletes and other respected people and celebrities kept coming to see me. For instance, Thomas Bach, the IOC president, and other senior executives and people of authority. I didn’t stay there all the time, though. I took long strolls about the park and showed up at the stadiums from time to time. I kept my fingers crossed for the Russian skiers, which was only natural. This is a traditional winter sport. I also was very emotional about those other guys who race on skis with rifles on their backs… What are they called? Oh, Lord, the word escapes me…
- Biathletes! Right! I liked them so much. Yours truly had quite a day today. Grandpa Frost’s schedule is tight. Small wonder I feel a little bit weary towards the close of day. It’s somewhat difficult for me to recall things. Also, you ought to make allowances for my old age. My apologies… To put it in a nutshell, I supported our Olympic athletes in Sochi to the best of my ability.
- And do you do some sports yourself?
- Yes, surely. It’s a real pleasure to go out skiing on a frosty winter day! My main residence is in the countryside near the city of Veliki Ustyug. It’s one hundred football pitches in area. All planted up by fir trees…
It’s such a pity for me fishing is not an Olympic sport. Otherwise I would’ve surely taken part. I’ve always been a fisherman as far back as I can remember myself. And I am a real connoisseur, you know. There is a chain of ponds at my estate, all crawling with carps. I’m an early riser. In summer time I may get up as early as four in the morning to get in a boat and bait the hook at dawn. There’s nobody around. It’s so quiet and beautiful! And in winter time I may try myself at ice fishing. To tell you the truth, though, I have virtually no spare time to spare for such hobbies starting from the middle of November. There are other more important duties to attend. But if I go fishing, I take no electric gadgets or other sophisticated gear. I do it the old way my own grandfathers did. And if I catch a fish, I take a look at it and then let it go back into the lake.
- Haven’t I told you: I like fishing as a sport! I do it for the sake of thrill and pleasure, and not to get something to eat. I don’t starve at all. I like natural types of products – mushrooms, berries, baked products. Have you ever tried the tiny round-shaped stuffed cakes that people still make in the Arkhangelsk Region and also in the Kirov Region, on the Volga and in villages around Vologda? I’m a northerner, so the local foods are my choice. In my winter garden, though, I grow oranges and pineapples. To treat the visiting kids to.
- As far as snacks concerned, it’s more or less clear. What kind of drinks do you prefer?
- Hmm… fresh water is good enough for me. Tea is still better. Tea is always welcome.
- Don’t you think this is a little bit wrong? A shot of vodka, especially when you come in from the cold – what can be better?
- I’m telling you that I am right and I can prove it! As for alcohol… I’d put it this way. It puts the individual to test. It’s always been so. Whenever I show up on the doorstep, the host usually offers a glass of liquor to see if there is a real Grandfather Frost in front of him, or an imposter. The one who agrees is a fake. Tell him to get out at once! This cheater will never bring anything good to your home. The one who refuses to drink is genuine Grandpa Frost.
- In other words, you?
- In other words, yes. Me or some of my aides. I cannot be everywhere however hard I might try to. I take this opportunity to say hello to Dmitry Nazarov, a great friend of mine, holder of the People’s Actor of Russia title, who appears on stage at Oleg Tabakov’s Moscow Arts Theater. When I hadn’t started travelling all over the country yet but welcomed guests only at Veliki Ustyug, Dmitry helped me a lot and substituted for me at various events in Moscow and all other cities. Nazarov will always be a welcome guest here. I’d be glad to see him!
- What’s your official title – "…of all Russia"?
- That’s something I do not like. I hate officialdom. Do you know what makes a professional Grandfather Frost different from the real one? The professional one is the one who’s made you believe he is one, while the real one is he who has not deceived you. Don’t you feel the difference? All of us, young folks and old folks, do dream of a miracle.
My mission is to make miracles, to give them to people as gifts. That’s what I’ve been doing all the time. As long as I can remember myself
- And how far back can you remember yourself?
- I’m not in the habit of counting years. Why should I? I just go on living.
I can show you my passport, issued by the chief of police of the Veliki Ustyug District, the Vologda Region. It has a number and an official stamp. It’s an official ID. Fifteen years ago I was offered a retiree’s certificate. I refused to accept it. I feel well and thoughts of retiring never visit my mind. Some scientists say they’ve discovered documentary evidence I was born in the 6th century BC. There is a mention of me in some ancient Iranian philosophy, I’m told. So I’m two and a half thousand years old. At least.
- You are definitely in good shape.
I keep working on it. Those who like fitness usually look good.
There’s hardly anyone I could go to ask about the details of my biography. All of my colleagues in the same line of business, winter magicians, I mean, are much younger. However, it is against the rules of our profession to boast about one’s origin and background, or to quarrel about who is older and has greater merits. All Santa twins are my brothers – Weihnachtsmann in Germany, Pere Noel in France, Joulupukki in Finland, Babbo Natale in Italy, and Zyuzya Poozersky (literally meaning “Zyuzya of the Land of Lakes), in Belarus.
- Do you speak any foreign languages?
- The language of kindness does not require translation.
- It goes without saying.
- It does. Although I may not be as fluent in English as I should or would like to be, when at the annual get-together of winter conjurers and magicians in Copenhagen the issue was brought up of our involvement or non-involvement in politics, I managed to express my point of view very clearly and, I think I drove the message home. When your country is under attack, there’s no chance of staying aloof. I’ve proven that many a time. In 1812 and in 1941… Somebody may not know it, but I have a senior military rank. I’m General Frost. It was Emperor Napoleon who was the first to have referred to me in this fashion. Then there followed Adolf Hitler - his name not to be mentioned in the night-tide. All had a really hard time dealing with me. Russian winters served them right.
That’s approximately what I told my fellows in Copenhagen. Up to one thousand Santas get together there sometimes.
- All of them sporting beards like yours?
- Most, but not all. For instance, my brother in Karelia, Pakkaine, is beardless. He is still rather young. A really handsome guy he is, good-humored and good-natured. All girls like him. Should he pass by a mirror, his reflection stays there, and on December 1 another Pakkaine will emerge from it…
By the way, Santa Claus from the US has the worst problems. In the US there is a special law that prohibits adults from talking to somebody else’s children, touching them and even giving gifts. In the US children are taught from their very first days not to ever approach strangers or take things from them. In the meantime, on Christmas Eve parents themselves may put their kids on Santa’s lap and encourage them to recite poems. Some kids are curious whose advise they should follow. So US Santas have to be extremely tactful. It is essential not to make kids feel scared, not to cause any harm… Also, the US Santa does not like his name is often used for commercial purposes by the vendors of sweet soft drinks. He doesn’t earn a cent on this and leads a very moderate way of life in his New Hampshire residence. I was there several times. By the way, soft drink manufacturers tried to clinch a deal with me, too, back in 1999. They urged me to agree to appear in commercials and promised mammoth kickbacks in exchange. I refused even to discuss the terms. Besides, Russia’s Grandfather Frost is not for sale to anyone, let alone US junk food manufacturers.
My Japanese twin is called Hoteiosho and he has eyes in the back of his head to see everything around better.
In a word, each country has a magician of its own. But all of them are younger than me. Most of them are dated back to the 3rd century A.D. St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, was their ancestor. Legend has it that once upon a time in the territory of what is Turkey today there lived a man. His main accomplishment as a Christian was he helped three Christians, whose father was so poor that he was unable to pay any dowry for their marriage. Without any prospect of finding husbands this meant the sisters may have been forced into earning their daily bread by selling their bodies. Nicholas wanted to help the family, but did not want to attract any attention to himself, either. So he climbed the roof of their house one night and threw three gold coins into the chimney. All coins fell into a stocking that was drying by the fireplace. In the morning the sisters found the money, which proved enough for them to get married. That’s how Santa Claus was brought into being.
My own story is somewhat different.
- Will you tell it, please?
- It’s a Russian fairy tale! Although I would not call it strictly Russian. At a certain point Patriarch Alexy II, of Moscow and All Russia, came to my place at Veliki Ustyug. At that time there was a big controversy over whether the Russian Orthodox Church should recognize me or not. After all, I am from a land of pagans. Russia was not a Christian country in those days. His Holiness was wise enough to declare: “It’s a pagan tradition, of course, but it is also a kind and good one. You have my blessing.” So with his blessing I still carry on.
I unite people of different creeds and nations and this is what makes me strong
To my regret I see politicians these days have been trying to drive wedges between peoples. This should not be allowed to happen.
- You start sounding like a preacher.
- Possibly, I do. But what’s wrong about that? I’m not a clergyman, mine is a different department.