Some Russia cities are banning actors from playing the local version of Santa at nursery parties, it’s reported.
Kindergarten managers often hire people to play Grandfather Frost at New Year, which is more widely celebrated than Christmas in Russia, and then present parents with the bill.
But this year only parents themselves or teachers can don the red robes and snowy beard in Novosibirsk, Kirov and Samara, Ren TV reports, as part of a campaign to stamp out sharp practices.
Nurseries can still hire actors with the prior approval of parents, in line with an approach pioneered by the city of Kazan last year.
Council officers in the various cities say this will counter reports of nurseries slapping hefty bills on parents for the retrospective services of sometimes questionable performers.
“Parents want to know whose knee their kids are going to sit on, and the Grandfather Frosts need to understand that,” Kirov’s Alexander Petritsky told Ren TV.
Novosibirsk’s Anna Tereshkova went further, saying some Grandfather Frosts “cause children psychological trauma”, adding that her city will only allow his traditional Snow Maiden helper to visit nurseries.
Ren TV gave the Grandfather Frosts a right of reply, and one complained that the restrictions could “ruin kids’ dreams – how can you have New Year without Father Frost?”
Talk of Grandfather Frosts on the make did not unduly bother social media users either. They reacted with a mixture of outrage and confusion.
One Twitter user called the officials behind the ban “weirdos”, while another on Facebook told them to “keep your filthy hands off our children’s souls”.
The city halls could have been prepared for this, as the Russian internet was equally incensed last year when the state media watchdog issued instructions on how children should write to Grandfather Frost.
As for this year, “it looks like not even the Snow Maiden can help the old man,” laments Ren TV.
Reporting by Vitaly Shevchenko and Martin Morgan
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