Maslenitsa in Russia: Pouring on the Pancakes
Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, is a favorite holiday in Russia. Because it began as a pagan celebration of winter’s end, Maslenitsa was not targeted by the Soviets, who frowned on religious holidays. Today its Christian content is more acceptable, and it’s celebrated both as a pagan springtime rite and, similar to Carnival, a last fling before Lent prohibits all pleasurable things.
Mark Your Calendar: Pancake WeekIn 2019, Matslenitsa starts on Monday, March 4, and ends on Sunday, March 10.
A big part of Pancake Week involves making and consuming blini, the crepe-like Russian pancake made with yeast, flour, milk, eggs and butter. Blini are round and golden like the sun, and in pagan times, eating blini was like taking in the sun’s warmth and power. Making blini is also a good way to use up the milk, eggs and butter before they are prohibited by the Lenten fasting regimen.
On the first day of the week, people make a scarecrow called Maslenitsa (formerly named Kostroma, a Slavic fertility goddess) and on the last day of the week they take her out into the town square and burn her, signifying the end of winter.
In Moscow you can still find some form of Maslenitsa festivity each night of the week, and on Sunday the symbolic burning of Lady Maslenitsa takes place in Red Square. The worst of the winter cold is blown away with the smoke, clearing the way for spring.
Travel to Russia with MIR
Ready for some Russian blini? They’re on the menu whether it’s Pancake Week or not.
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(Top photo: Making Russian blini. Photo credit: Peter Sukonik)
PUBLISHED: February 2, 2016