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Santa Claus, Norouz-Style

Tajiks added a new element to the traditional Norouz celebrations this year -- a slightly modified version of Santa Claus.

"Norouz Santa's" long white beard and sack bear a striking resemblance to Santa Claus, but his robe and walking stick are more colorful and wrapped with flowers.

Ruziboi Mavlonzoda, the man behind the idea, said that next year he is planning a new twist: a "Granddaughter Norouz."

The original Grandfather Frost too, is still popular in Tajikistan, although his reputation has diminished somewhat in the country's northern Sughd region.

Last New Year's Eve, one Grandfather Frost went from house to house to hand out gifts to local children, but at the same time he was also filling his sack with consumer durables from each house he visited.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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