Russians never miss an opportunity to celebrate! Known for its myriad of festivities, Russia celebrates the Maslenitsa Festival throughout this week. Maslenitsa Week – also popularly known as Pancake Week – is typically celebrated during the week leading up to Great Lent and thus every day of the festival is celebrated with a specific ritual (see more below). This year it runs from 20 to 26 February and mostly consists of festivities marking the end of the Russian winter and eating blini (crepes).
First things first, where does Maslenitsa originate from? According to Advantour.com, the holiday is said to have found its origin in the Pagan tradition. Maslenitsa (derived from maslo, which means butter or oil in Russian) comes from the tradition of baking pancakes (or blini , in Russian).
Although back in the day it started as a sad day of remembrance of those who are no longer, the Russians turned it into a celebration with blini.
So, what actually transpires during the festival?
On the opening day of Maslenitsa (Monday), a straw-figure of Winter is made and dressed in old women’s clothing and accompanied by joyful singing whiled being carried on sleigh around the village.
Tuesday is known as “zaigrysh” (game day), this is also when the actual festivities kick off: sleigh riding, folk festivals, skomorokh (traveling actors) and puppet shows. It’s a day of singing and laughter, mini on-the-spot concerts and loads of fun!
Wednesday – gourmand – is feast day with blini and other dishes, like hot sbiten (drinks from water, honey and spices), nuts, honey ginger breads and poured tea from boiling samovars, while Thursday is the highlight of the games – revelry. That’s also when the hottest fistfights took place.
If sons-in-law are treated to pancakes at their in-laws on Wednesday, it would be their turn on Friday to do the same.
Saturday is also family day when relatives paid visits to young wives, while Sunday is named “forgiveness”. Wherever forgiveness is needed and amends needed to be made, it is reserved for Sunday. At night, everyone would go to the cemeteries and “bid farewell” to the dead. On the last day of Maslenitsa, remnants of pancakes and food to the huge bonfire explaining their children that all the nourishing food disappeared in fire to prepare them for the Lent.
For additional information about the Maslenitsa Festival, click here.
– Advantour.com; Russia Beyond
– Images: Embassy of Russia