Despite adopting a policy of state atheism, the secularization project of the Soviet Union could do nothing to sever the cultural connection to Christmas.
Below are some “holiday” cards from the Soviet era, but one can easily detect efforts at sneaking familiar Christmas traditions into what had become a Soviet New Year celebration. You can see the character of Ded Moroz, formerly an evil sorcerer from Slavic mythology—he was said to freeze and kidnap children without conciliations from their parents. His striking resemblance to Santa is the result of a massive rebrand by the Orthodox Church to mimic the Dutch Saint Nicholas.
Of course, after the Russian Revolution, Ded Moroz was declared “an ally of the priest,” and was subsequently (somewhat awkwardly) retrofitted over the Soviet New Year holiday. In 1935, high-ranking Soviet politician (and primary facilitator of the famine-genocide in the Ukraine), Pavel Petrovich Postyshev spoke out in defense of Christmas, arguing that its pre-Christian origins and value to children should exempt it from condemnation as bourgeois or religious. This paved the way for a more lenient view on the holiday.
In 1937, Stalin even commissioned a Ded Moroz for public appearances, commanding, however, that they wear blue, so as not to be conflated with the Western Saint Nicholas. There were even Soviet Nativity Scenes with Ded Moroz as Joseph, a Snow Maiden (Ded Moroz’ helper) as Mary, and the baby New Year as Jesus.
As you can see below, Soviets fashioned some truly surreal feats of cultural synthesis with Ded Moroz, Communist iconography, and the USSR’s omnipresent symbol of ambitious futurism: space travel.
Rockets for speed, horses for nostalgia
Actually, screw the vestigial horses—they’re just bourgeois sentimentality
Note the icons of industrial economy in the tree—factory, bridge, dam, rocket, minecart, etc
Cosmonaut boy is a character seen almost as frequently as Ded Moroz, emphasizing the child-centric focus of the holiday
And here’s Ded Moroz riding an actual Communist star around the cosmos
While the dynamic geometry of Socialist Realism is commonly thought in the US to represent the overwhelming majority of Soviet art, this beautiful example is actually somewhat anomalous in a sea of cards featuring cherubic Christmas faces
Barely any reference to the season, much less the holiday—this card only dreams of progress for the people!
Another boy cosmonaut, with approval from Ded Moroz