Alaska Life

The Winter Queen, Snow Maiden and Father Frost make an appearance at an Anchorage elementary school

Outside Anchorage’s Turnagain Elementary School, the sounds of giggling children spilled from a horse-drawn sleigh. Soon, the giggles transformed into full-body excitement as the children caught sight of Father Frost.

The Father Frost Russian Winter Festival is an annual event hosted by the Mission is Russian Parents Group, with support from the Parent-Teacher Association at Turnagain Elementary. The event, Saturday, featured performances, games, food and sled dog meet-and-greets.

Father Frost, the Winter Queen and Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden), listened as groups of children in the Anchorage School District’s Russian Immersion program sang in Russian and recited poems –– a traditional act before receiving gifts from Father Frost. Volunteers Yevgeny Yagodin, Krystyna Cullom and Daria Stewart, acted the parts respectively.

The program is available to students at Anchorage’s Turnagain Elementary, Romig Middle School and West High School through a lottery program. The lottery will open for applications in January 2022.

Saturday’s event was just one of many throughout the year aimed at bringing awareness to Russian culture and traditions, said first grade teacher Olga Pustina. Pustina is also the president of the MIR parents group.

People slurped up borscht (beet) soup. Cups of hot chocolate warmed rosy-cheeked children as they ran around outside in their puffy winter jackets and snow pants.

Cullom helped guide the children through the Russian fairytale of Father Frost.

Together they shouted, “Снегу́рочка” and “Дед Мороз” three times each as they beckoned for the Snow Maiden and Father Frost to join them.

Six-year-old Gatorian Houston, whose mother is Russian, held the microphone as he and his classmates sang a prepared Russian song. He didn’t miss a beat as his father watched on with pride.

In the final celebration, they all joined hands and sang while circling a large decorated tree.

The new year is the most important time of the year for us, said Cullom, while taking photos with the children after the celebration.