Before the revolution in Russia, all the children had heard of Babushka, who left them presents on Christmas Eve. These days not all Russians know the story as New Year is a more important celebration to Russians, but the story of Babushka is slowly making a comeback. It is very similar to the story of La Befana in Italy. The word Babushka means “Grandmother” in Russian, and this is her story:
Long ago in a small village in Russia, far from the nearest city, lived Babushka. She was very house-proud, and she worked all day long scrubbing and sweeping and cleaning to keep her house nice.
One evening there was a knock at her door, and when she opened it she found three kings. They told her that they were on a long journey and that they were looking for a place to stay for the night. They had been told that she had the nicest, cleanest house in the village.
Babushka invited them in and prepared a meal for them. As they ate they told her that they were following a star which would lead them to a special baby. They asked her to accompany them but she protested that she didn’t have time – after all she had a house to keep clean, and who would dust and sweep if she went off travelling?
The three kings tried hard to persuade her, but she continued to protest – she couldn’t possible, she was too busy she had too much to do – and she waved them off as they continued their journey.
Later, she looked around. Her house was clean, the floors were swept, everything was dusted…. Perhaps she had time to go and look for this special baby after all. Quickly she packed some food and small gifts to offer him, and left the house. But where was the star? She had left it too late and the star could no longer be seen. She set off, asking everyone she passed whether the three kings had come this way, but nobody was able to help her.
Legend says that she is still looking, and that each time she passes a house where small children live, she leaves small gifts for them in honour of the special baby she seeks.