9th December, Babushka
Babushka is a traditional figure in Russian folklore who distributes presents to children around Christmas-time. Her name literally means “Grandmother” (which makes you wonder what Kate Bush was singing about!) The legend is she declined to go with the Wise Men, when they stopped at her house for food and rest en route to Bethlehem, to see the baby Jesus – because of the cold weather, and because she had housework and baking to do.
However, after the Magi left, she regretted not going and set off to catch up, filling her basket with presents and pastries. She never did catch up or find the baby Jesus, and it is said she wonders the earth ’til this day, visiting each house at Christmas and leaving toys and treats for good children. The morals of this story? Don’t put off ’til to-morrow what you can do today and a clean house, it’s not all that important!
I have an old book entitled North Russian Architecture, with a slip-case, a faux wood cover and hundreds of photographs of log-cabins and shingled, onion-domed shrines and chapels. They provided my reference for the buildings behind her.
Illustration copyright © Paul Bommer