The Russian word for grandmother is babushka, a term used to address one's own grandmother as well as any woman of grandmotherly age. This word is also used in a joking manner, to designate an older woman who is full of folk wisdom and loves to feed her grandchildren. Since the Russian alphabet is different from the English one, transliteration is necessary, and words often exist in several different spellings.
In the case of babushka, variations are baboushka, babouchka or babooshka.
The word babushka has two other meanings. A head scarf folded into a triangular shape and tied under the chin is called a babushka. Russian nesting dolls, usually called matryoshka, are sometimes called babushka dolls.
Some Russian grandchildren call their grandmothers baba. A related endearment is babulya.
The Role of Grandmothers In Russia
In most Russian families, both parents work. The state provides parental leave when a baby is born. Usually the mother stays home, but if the father makes more money, he may stay home as the stipend from the state will be greater.
At any rate, when the baby is somewhere between 1 and 3, the parental leave will be gone. Often it is then time to call on a grandmother.
The government is developing a system of child care, but it is not yet fully available, and few Russian families use nannies. Frequently a grandmother will care for children during the time between the end of parental leave and the beginning of regular school. Tough economic times, however, have meant that some Russian grandmothers are still working and must hold on to jobs past the usual retirement age of 55.
Holidays and Traditions
Holiday celebrations are very important in Russia, and grandmothers take on much of the holiday preparation. Although religious practices were banned during the Soviet years, religious holidays survived in one form or another. Since the end of the Soviet era, holidays have regained religious significance for many.
Easter is a more important holiday in Russia than Christmas. It is often preceded by a ritual house cleaning, then celebrated with Easter eggs and traditional foods. Going to a special church service is customary, as is spending time with family.
The Russian traditions for celebrating Christmas can be confusing to non-Russians. Some Russians follow the Catholic calendar and celebrate Christmas on December 25 and New Year's on January 1. Others follow the Orthodox calendar and celebrate Christmas on January 7 and New Year's on January 14. Most Russians have a semblance of a celebration on all four! Much of the celebration takes place on the holiday eves rather than on the holidays themselves.
Russian Christmas celebrations feature a grandfather and a granddaughter. The Russian Santa Claus is known as Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost. His assistant is Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, usually portrayed as the granddaughter of Ded Moroz.