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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It's Not Just Gift-Giving for Ded Moroz

MTAlexander Zuikov, a 16-year-old Ded Moroz, arriving at a school party in Dmitrov, in the Moscow region. He found the heat and inattentive kids a challenge.
Ded Moroz doesn't seem to get any respect.

Children -- and adults -- are demanding a lot more than gifts these days from the old bearded man and his constant companion, Snegurochka, or the Snow Maiden. Their wish lists include Ded Morozes who arrive by parachute, recite rap, perform tricks and help Snegurochka take off her clothes.

The one thing they don't want is a Ded Moroz who reminds them of Santa Claus.

With New Year's approaching, the phones are ringing nonstop at Moscow agencies that offer made-to-order Ded Morozes.

"The number of orders is growing year by year. More families can afford it now," said

Artyom Solodov, head of Just Smile, who has been sending Ded Morozes to parties for seven years.

Solodov said he has discovered that the richer the family or company ordering the Ded Moroz, the more difficult it is to please them.

"As a rule, parties are more exciting in low-income families, perhaps because these people are easier to surprise," he said.

But Ded Morozes don't come cheap -- even for low-income families. A one-hour visit starts at around 2,000 rubles ($80) and can reach 15,000 rubles ($610) or more. Tricks and other specially ordered services cost extra. For example, a popular service at Just Smile is the "the butterfly in the envelope" trick, which costs 2,000 rubles. "We put a live exotic butterfly in an envelope, and when you open it, the butterfly flies out," Solodov said.

He said he gets requests for Ded Morozes who have dark skin, can play the accordion or can impersonate famous Russian politicians.

Not to be outdone, the Moscow Father Frost Service promises Ded Morozes who can parachute, scale high apartment buildings to surprise guests through the window, and perform acrobatic tricks in gigantic inflatable suits. The agency's pride is a rather un-Russian Ded Moroz who turns into Elvis Presley. Snegurochka, who according to Russian fairy tales is his granddaughter, turns into Marilyn Monroe.

The Snegurochka provided by the Ded Moroz Agency promises to put on a striptease. She travels with Ded Moroz and a company of jugglers with burning torches and fairy-tale characters, the agency's director said by telephone. He identified himself as Mikhail and refused to give his last name.

Another agency, New Year, boasts a supply of "slim or genuinely fat" Ded Morozes with accompanying clowns.

Many callers demand that the Ded Moroz looks nothing like Santa Claus, said Alexei, a director at two companies, the Father Frost Service and Father Frost Base.

"Russians are afraid of getting a Santa Claus," he said. "They say there's no way they can order him because they have their own traditions."

A tough challenge for Ded Moroz are corporate parties with drunk clients who try to get the pair intoxicated and sexually harass Snegurochka, Solodov said.

There are other challenges as well, depending on the guest list, how long the party lasts, and whether the party is held indoors or outdoors.

Nina, a Snegurochka and phone operator for New Year, said low-budget, all-female parties were her least favorite. The women at these parties tend to be "bitchy," she said.

A recent 90-minute party for mentally challenged children at a school in Dmitrov, 65 kilometers north of Moscow, proved hard work for Alexander Zuikov, 16, who played Ded Moroz. He was soon swimming in sweat in his valenki boots, long coat with a fur fringe, winter hat and bushy beard -- all in a heated schoolroom. The children, excited to see Ded Moroz, paid scant attention to his entertainment program, wanting instead to ask him questions about where he lived and what he did.

But Zuikov said he loved the job. "I'd like to work as a party manager," he said, sitting in a car as he headed back to Moscow afterward.

"I like the festive atmosphere," added his partner, Alyona Spirina, 24, who plays Snegurochka. "It reminds me of my childhood."

Web sites of select agencies mentioned in this article:

Just Smile:

Moscow Father Frost Service:

Ded Moroz Agency:

New Year:

Father Frost Service:

Father Frost Base: