Russian dolls, also known as Matryoshka (mah-tree-ohr-sh-ka) dolls and Babushka dolls, traditionally represent fertility and a mother’s significance as the centre of the family. The nesting aspect of Russian dolls depicts the mother’s ability to carry and birth her sons and daughters. Some claim that Russian dolls bring good luck, whilst others claim that playing with Russian dolls incorrectly could bring a year’s worth of bad luck.
So, what’s the deal? Do Russian dolls bring good luck? There is no strong evidence of Russian dolls granting good luck. However, The myth of Russian Dolls bringing good luck may be based upon Japanese mythology. Japanese nesting dolls (Shichi-Fukujin - Seven Lucky Gods) were believed to grant good luck. Each layer would reveal another of the Seven Lucky Gods.
Keep reading to learn more about the symbology of Russian dolls, and their supposed ability to bring good luck to their owners.
Are Russian Dolls Good Luck?
There is no strong mythology surrounding the idea that Russian dolls bring good luck to their owners. However, there is strong symbolism in Russian dolls that represents fertility, and they are closely related to Japanese nesting dolls, Shichi-Fukujin (Seven Lucky Gods), which is where the idea of Russian dolls granting good luck may originate.
In Japanese mythology, the largest of the nesting dolls was Fukurokuju, the God of Wisdom and Longevity, and each layer, or doll, within would reveal another of the Seven Lucky Gods.
As it is thought that Russian Matryoshka dolls were inspired by those from the Far East, it is reasonable to assume that this may be where the idea of the nesting dolls bringing good luck to their owner derives from. Although, there is no proof of this.
Some may also interpret the symbolism of Russian dolls representing fertility and family to be a sign of good luck or well-wishing to those hoping to have children.
Are Russian Dolls Bad Luck?
The idea that Russian dolls bring bad luck has no truth to it, in reality, or in Russian mythology, and may derive from the game, the Nesting Doll Game. This is a game (or, perhaps, more of a ritual) that supposedly brings the player good or bad luck depending on how they play.
Ideally, players would need to have a few sets of Russian dolls to play (preferably not new sets), access to a windowless room, a large wall-mounted mirror, a bin, salt, candles, lighter, pen and paper, and a lucky charm.
The key to the Nesting Doll Game is to follow the rules to the T. If players follow the rules, they may not gain good luck, or what they wished for, but nothing bad will happen. However, if players don’t play correctly, and don’t follow all of the rules, they are likely to receive a year’s worth of bad luck.
What Do Russian Dolls Symbolise?
Russian dolls symbolise fertility and Matryona, the embodiment of a woman's health. They celebrate motherhood with the largest nesting doll representing a mother, and the dolls within representing her children.
However, the original Russian Matryoshka dolls, created in 1892 by Vasilij PetroviÄ ZvézdoÄkin, were said to represent a mother, 5 peasants, a Russian boy, and a baby.
Some also claim that Matryoshka dolls represent Mother Russia, whereby the largest doll hosts men, women, and children, but also feelings such as pain, happiness, and joy - just like a mother takes on these feelings of her children.
Finally, Russian dolls can also represent life. Consider our lives as a whole to be the largest doll; the mother. The dolls inside represent our stories, relationships, feelings, and experiences. The smallest doll, the seed (the one which cannot be opened), represents our soul. This symbolises our innocence and the real essence of who we are.
What’s the Difference Between Matryoshka Dolls and Babushka Dolls?
Traditionally Russian dolls are Matryoshka dolls, where Matryoshka means mother. Babushka, however, means grandmother in Russian and isn’t really related to Russian dolls. Most Russian dolls depict a young woman on the outermost doll - a mother.
Referring to Russian dolls as Babushka dolls likely come from westerners taking to Russian dolls in the early 1900s. By some degree of separation, and a lack of understanding of both Russian culture and language, they probably came to refer to nesting dolls as Babushka dolls out of ease. Let’s face it, it’s easier to say Babushka than Matryoshka...
Russian Dolls at World Gifts Live!
World Gifts Live offers a range of nesting dolls for you to adorn your home with, or to give away as a thoughtful gift to a loved one. Choose from more traditional (albeit modern designed) Matryoshka Dolls, Owl Nesting Dolls, Christmas Nesting Dolls, or a 5 piece Nightmare Before Christmas Nesting Doll Set.