09.10.2021 // The magician Yamal Iri, the Yamal counterpart of Ded Moroz and Santa Claus, is not only a fairy tale character beloved by local children, but also a cool tourist brand. People from all over the country travel to the Arctic Santa's residence near Salekhard, in the village of Gornoknyazevsk, to celebrate Yamal Iri's birthday on 28 November, celebrate New Year, and learn about the culture of Yamal's indigenous people.
Yamal Iri is the Ded Moroz of Yamal. His other names include the Ruler of Lukomorye, Frosty Wizard, Grandfather the World's End, and the Arctic Grandfather.
He is a wizard with an ethnical touch. He wears the traditional clothing of the indigenous people of the north: malitsa – a fur coat belted with an embroidered and ornamented mammoth bone sash, and kisy – boots made of reindeer fur. His hair is long and braided into plaits, and his magic paraphernalia is not only a staff but also a shaman's tambourine. He lives in a chum tent and travels on reindeer. Yamal Iri knows all the Yamal legends, tales, proverbs and sayings.
How old is Yamal Iri? His own answer is usually "I've lived for as many years as there are flakes of snow on the ground". According to the legend, he was born at the time the tundra was first formed. But we'll let you in on a secret: it actually only happened in 2007. That year, a children's drawing contest was announced to create an image of the Yamal Ded Moroz. A girl from the Mys Kamenny village, Yana Khudi, won the contest. It was her work that became the basis for Yamal Iri's image. The contest results were announced on 28 November 2007 – it has been celebrated as the birthday of the Yamal wizard ever since.
Yamal Iri has been gaining popularity with each passing year, and not only in his homeland – many tourists from all over the country have travelled to Yamal to see the Frosty Wizard with their own eyes. Yamal Iri was even mentioned in the Strategy for Socioeconomic Development of the Urals Federal Districtas an "effective tool" for developing event tourism in Yamal. And at the beginning of 2021, he was one of the ten most mentioned New Year's characters, according to Smyslographia Analytical Agency.
One of the Yamal Iri's names is the Ruler of Lukomorye. This old word means a bend of the coast, a bay; it is believed that a few centuries ago the Russians, and after them the inhabitants of Europe, called the Yamal Lukomorye. In particular, a 1680 geographical map by the Dutchman Frederik de Wit refers to the peninsula as Lukomorye.
Modern Lukomorye, the residence of Yamal Iri, is located in the village of Gornoknyazevsk. It is 15 km away from Salekhard, the capital of the Yamal-Nenets Area, and the only city in the world situated directly on the Arctic Circle.
In 2001, a nature and ethnographic complex was opened in Gornoknyazevsk.
Tourists come here to learn about the history of Gornoknyazevsk, see with their own eyes the objects created in ancient times by Yamal people, get acquainted with traditional crafts, live in a chum tent, taste northern cuisine, take part in workshops and ceremonies, ride reindeer sledges, admire the natural beauty, compete in national sports and go to a reindeer herding camp.
This is the place Yamal Iri has chosen to make his permanent home. The Arctic Grandfather welcomes guests all year round, treats them to sweets and tea, gives them riddles, answers their letters and presents them with gifts. A visit to the Yamal Iri residence is free of charge every day.
But of course, the hottest time in Yamal Iri's life begins on his birthday – November 28 – and lasts until the New Year. At this time, the Arctic Grandfather's residence hosts numerous festivities with games and competitions, giveaways, performances and guided tours of the ethno-complex.
After 20 December, Yamal Iri traditionally arrives to Salekhard and opens a temporary residence there: the "Arctic Tale with Yamal Iri" holiday begins. Guests take a reindeer sled ride with the wizard and make their wishes. Yamal Irie is quite a modern grandfather, so he has a website, social network pages, and even a TikTok account. On the website, among other things, it is possible to write a letter to Yamal Iri, or to ask him for a personal greeting. The contacts for his residence can also be found there.
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