Christmas heralds a time of merry making and gift giving, of bonding with friends and family and of spending time in the warm glow of love. Of course, gifts are the most awaited and best loved part of Christmas. It is a tradition which, according to legends, has continued since the birth of Christ, when He was offered the first gifts that would later become an important aspect of the celebration of his birth. And like gifts, Christmas stories are also an integral part of the occasion. Every region has its own favorite Christmas story that elders and children alike love recounting during this time. The ritual of giving gifts during Christmas, especially to children, had its origin in a very poignant legend. This is the Legend of Baboushka and, it is widely believed that it originated in Russia. This story was very popular in Russia before the revolution of 1917.
The legend of Baboushka is about an old and lonely woman who is considered to have started the tradition of giving gifts to children. Baboushka, which means 'grandmother' or 'old woman' in Russian, lived in a big house, safe and warm. However, she led a very lonely life with no company, friends or neighbors. Only the sound of travelers passing in their carts and the animals grazing nearby could break the monotony of her existence, these being her only solace. She would provide food to the animals and birds and offer a resting place to weary travelers.
When winter came, and winter in Russia is long and dreary, these little comforts would also fade away. Even the birds, that she would leave crumbs for, would desert her for warmer climes, leaving the old woman sad and lonely, wishing and praying for company. It was on one such winter night, when she was trying to sleep, that she heard a noise steadily growing louder - voices and grunts - and she knew there are no humans or animals for miles around, what with the entire earth being blanketed in snow. Before long, she heard a loud pounding at her door and she rushed to open it, thinking that it must be a cold and famished traveler only to find three large horses with three noblemen dressed in, she thought, some of the finest and richest clothes that she had ever seen.
Baboushka invited the men inside but they declined. Instead, they invited her to travel with them, to Bethlehem, where they were bound, they said, to find and welcome the child who would be the king of Jews and lead mankind to salvation. Since, it was night and the winter harsh, the old mother asked the strangers to alight and spend the night her house so that they all can leave in the morning but they declined, saying that they do not want to get delayed, and set off. Later that night, she thought of the three men and the strange tidings they bore about the child who would be the king. She felt sad at rebuffing their invitation and so, then and there, she decided to meet the Child.
She gathered some trinkets to gift him and set out in the cold dark night. But, as luck would have it, despite travelling far and wide she could find neither the boy king nor the travelers. Legend has it that the old mother is looking for the boy king to this day and that whenever she meets a child she presents him/her with trinkets and continues on her search. Thus, from her, originates the custom of giving gifts to children on Christmas, no doubt to continue the pious work of Baboushka.
Among the many legends of Christmas, the Legend of Baboushka is often ignored. Know the complete legend given below.