Each garland comprises thousands of smiles
[b]Where should Father Frost and the Snow Maiden live, if not in the mysterious and ancient Belovezhskaya Pushcha?[/b] The fairy tale location, deep in the forest, surrounded by 15 hectares of 200-300 year old pines and firs, first welcomed guests in December 2003 and the festive pair have since delighted thousands of children from around the world.
The fairy tale location, deep in the forest, surrounded by 15 hectares of 200-300 year old pines and firs, first welcomed guests in December 2003 and the festive pair have since delighted thousands of children from around the world.
If you haven’t yet been then many surprises await you. From the first moment, you feel as if you’re entering a place where goodness, laughter and happiness reign. At dusk, garlands of colourful lights illuminate the village, sparkling and shimmering. Father Frost’s cottage alone has 40,000 bulbs. Meanwhile, his 40-foot living fir tree is covered in 5,000 twinkling lights, which reflect children’s smiles.
At the gates, guests are met by two wooden knights: Dub-Dubovich and Vyaz-Vyazovich. Near the festive tree, wooden sculptures depict characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as well as Buratino (Pinocchio), and a pike, goat, hare and bear. There are also those portraying each of the twelve months, with corresponding star signs; if you touch your own month and make a wish, it may come true. Inside, you’ll find a windmill, a magic well and a number of other fairy tale sites, including a pond with the Frog Prince.
Of course, most young visitors are most keen to explore Father Frost’s home, with its grand throne room, its study on the ground floor; upstairs is his bedroom and balcony. Meanwhile, the Snow Maiden’s cottage, adorned with pictures of squirrels, is filled with over a hundred toys, figurines, pillows and Christmas decorations. It’s a delight. The amazing collection was provided by Natalia Koritich from Brest, who graduated from the Belarusian State University as a geographer-ecologist. She plans to devote her life to ecotourism and collecting pictures of squirrels is her hobby. Her collection remains with the Snow Maiden until Maslenitsa (the festival which bids farewell to winter).
Naturally, you can also see about 400 real squirrels in the forest. They’re used to people, so will come quite close. There are also 428 bison within the national park.
December is the time to write letters to Father Frost or to visit him. He enters on the first day of winter not in a sledge but in a carriage, with the Snow Maiden and her entourage. The charming parade was as bright as ever this year although, sadly, there was no snow. Dancing, warming tea made with Belovezhskaya Pushcha herbs, and delicious pancakes with honey and cranberries always encourage a festive spirit. The pair were met, as is traditional, with gifts of bread and salt, before touring the whole estate. Old and young gathered for dancing around the main festive tree — so large in number that several rings were needed.
Father Frost’s costumes were sewn by the Skarbnitsa factory in Minsk. His bushy beard and sack of gifts complete his look. Fashion designer Irina Schubert created his robes, portraying him as a true resident of the Belarusian forest. Patterns on his coats are drawn from ancient Belarusian shirt designs while Snow Maiden’s dresses contain elements of the traditional ‘garset’ (female waistcoat) and ‘karunki’ (petals around the waist). The gold embroidery on their outfits is the work of masters from Orsha: on their hats and mittens, and even on the white felt boots and coat of Father Frost. His beard and moustache were bought from a famous German company, making him rather resemble Europe’s Santa Claus. Father Frost and the Snow Maiden have various outfits, made from velvet with fine gold embroidery. On the last day of winter, the Snow Maiden leaves the estate, and Father Frost changes his winter dress for a lighter one — made from linen. That is far off at present, with snow already now arriving.
Father Frost and the Snow Maiden invite us to visit them in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and assure us that the coming year holds all that is cheerful, happy, kind and wise. Tamara Tiborovskaya, from Brest, has come dozens of times, despite being aged over 30. She explains, “I can forget about everything during my visit — work and problems, returning to my childhood. I wish myself good luck and dream a little, as dreams do come true.”
Unfortunately, all the hotel rooms in the National Park are already booked for the New Year holidays but the beautiful fairy tale village is open until spring, ready to entertain and delight you. You can also tour the eco-museum, learning about the forest, and see the animals in their enclosures. Winter is a time for joy and wonder.
By Valentina Kozlovich