Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Baboushka: A Russian Folk Tale

A Christmas Classic.jpg
From “A Classic Christmas,” a compilation of beautiful reflections, meditations, and scripture passages. 

This story replaces the Saint Nicholas Legend in Russia and has been told for many years.

It was the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In a faraway country an old woman named Baboushka sat in her snug little house by her warm fire. The wind was drifting the snow outside and howling down the chimney, but it only made Baboushka’s fire burn more brightly.


“How glad I am to be indoors,” said Baboushka, holding out her hands to the bright blaze.

Suddenly she heard a loud rap at her door. She opened it and there stood three splendidly dressed old men. Their beards were as white as the snow and so long they almost reached the ground. Their eyes shone kindly in the light of Baboushka’s candle, and their arms were full of precious things–boxes of jewels and sweet-smelling oils and ointments.

“We have traveled far, Baboushka,” they said, “and we have stopped to tell you of the babe born this night in Bethlehem. He has come to rule the world and teach us to be more loving and true. We are bringing Him gifts. Come with us, Baboushka.”

Baboushka looked at the swirling, drifting snow and then inside at her cozy room and the crackling fire. “It is too late for me to go with you, good sirs,” she said. “The night is too cold.” She shut the door and went inside and the old men journeyed to Bethlehem without her.


But as Baboushka sat rocking by her fire, she began to think about the baby Prince, for she loved babies.

“Tomorrow I will go to find Him,” she said, “tomorrow, when it is light, and I will carry Him some toys.”

In the morning Baboushka put on her long cloak and took her staff, and she filled her basket with the pretty things a baby would like, gold balls, and wooden toys and strings of silver cobwebs, and she set out to find the baby.

But Baboushka had forgotten to ask the three old men the way to Bethlehem, and they had traveled so far during the night that she could not catch up with them. Up and down the road she hurried, through the woods and fields and towns, telling everyone she met, “I am looking for the baby Prince. Where does He lie? I have some pretty toys for Him.”


But no one could tell her the way. “Farther on, Baboushka, farther on,” was their only reply. So she traveled on and on for years and years–but she never found the little Prince.

They say that Baboushka is traveling still, looking for Him. And every year, when Christmas Eve comes and all the children are lying fast asleep, Baboushka trudges softly through the snowy fields and towns, wrapped in her long cloak and carrying her basket on her arm. Gently she raps at every door.

“Is He here?” she asks. “Is the baby Prince here?” But the answer is always no, and sorrowfully she starts on her way again. Before she leaves, though, she lays a toy from her basket beside the pillow of each child. “For His sake,” she says softly, and then hurries on through the years, forever in search of the baby Prince.

The Magi.jpg

  • Jill

    Cute story :)

  • Eugene

    This is funny to see how the word “Baboushka” is used in various contexts. Some people think it means beautiful woman, or something like that. At this case it is presented as a name. But in fact it means grandma in Russian and nothing else. No one in Russia is called baboushka :>>

  • m. ryan

    I is my understanding “Baboushka” means head scarf.

  • m. ryan

    Let me correct my error. “It is my understanding “Baboushka” means head scarf.”

  • K. Atwood

    The word means “grandmother” or “old woman” in Russian. Since old women wore head scarves, the term became used for both the person and the head scarf worn by them. The old story is precious.

  • Jennifer P.

    From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary –
    Main Entry: ba·bush·ka
    Pronunciation: \b?-?büsh-k?, -?bu?sh-, ba-\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Russian, grandmother, diminutive of baba old woman
    Date: 1938
    1 a : a usually triangularly folded kerchief for the head b : a head covering (as a scarf) resembling a babushka
    2 : an elderly Russian woman

  • Marcella

    It brings back memories of my childhood having a baboushka of my own :)

  • Camby

    I just love the story, but what do you all think the “true meaning” of the story is?

  • Paula

    It’s all in where you place the accent.
    A BA-boush-ka is grandmother.
    The headscarf is a ba-BOUSH-ka.
    As for the “true meaning” of this story… Is there a culture or tradition that doesn’t search for the Divine? And don’t we all leave a little something of ourselves with all we meet on our search?

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  • Joanne Seale

    I believe the lesson in this legend is that God calls each of us every day to seek him and to follow him, sometimes in unexpected ways. We can’t wait until it is a more convenient time for us to answer his call. His timing is the best!

  • Mary

    Babushka is grandmother. We have actually added to the meaning of babushka the headscarf that elderly Russian women wear. However, the actual meaning of babushka is “grandmother”.
    As for the moral to this story, it tells us that we are to always seek the Lord, in good times and in bad. We are to always be focused on Him, and when called, we should heed His calling. God will not lead us where He cannot deliver us – just as in the story of Moses leading his people (however, they did wander for years because of their choice to follow worldly ways and not Godly ways). Worldly ways vs Godly ways…..’nuff said.

  • susan

    hi there
    My husband great grand parents are from russia. They were menionite
    escapingfrom pursurcution. and a barbouska I always new as a head
    Our children are blessed to have many different nationalties. They
    Russian,Swiss German, English twice Irish, French and Cherokee Indian
    Happy New Year to all

  • Barbara H

    Thank you so very much for sharing this Russian folktale with us . . . what a beautiful replacement for the Santa Claus tale we all know so well!! When i read this story, my first thought was,”Ohhh, how we all regret the chances we have had to worship and serve God that we were “too busy” or it was “too cold” to go and do!” This story was a great reminder to me to really take the time to listen for God’s direction and guidance in my own life, lest i be searching for Him all the rest of my days, too . . . God bless you, Theresa, for sharing this beautiful but haunting Christmas story . .

  • Jeannette

    I’m old and wear a Russian scarf to church on Sundays, so don’t think I am biased against this story-it is good-but I like better how St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) really existed and did so much good that he became a saint. Most notible was when he gave dowry money for three girls, because without it they were too poor to marry and would have had to become prostitutes to live.
    So he saved lives as well as souls.

  • MD

    Hello All!
    I am Russian, born and raised, speak, read and write Russian, educated in Russia and USA, hold MPA. Never – Ever in my life have a heard his story! It does not exist in Russian folklore.I was very puzzled by your publication, did some research and found out why I never heard of this “Russian folk story”. It is not Russian at all! The first mentioning of this story comes from an American writer and poetess Edith Matilda Thomas in 1907.
    If you are interested, please follow this link to a complete explanation.—a-christmas-tale-but-not-russian-a313464

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