Maslenitsa is probably one of the most cheerful and peculiar Russian holidays. It is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk festival celebrated during the last week before the Great Lent - that is, the eighth week before Easter. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun-feast that symbolizes the end of winter. This year Maslenitsa is celebrated from February,12 to February,18.
HOW TO CELEBRATE
Maslenitsa lasts for 7 days. During this holiday week, a number of events and celebrations take place. Traditional Maslenitsa activities include sleigh rides, snowball fights, round dances and pancake eating in particular. In big cities, there are also food markets, festival attractions and lots of entertainment for children.
Russian Maslenitsa is very similar to the Carnival in Venice. One foreign guest visiting Russia in the 16th century wrote about Maslenitsa: "It reminds me a lot the Italian Carnival. One of the differences is that Italian guards patrol the streets to maintain order while Russian guards drink alcohol together with people who celebrate Maslenitsa and participate in all the activities".
According to orthodox tradition, during the week of Maslenitsa meat is forbidden, and it is the last week before the Great Lent during which eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted. The word Maslenitsa can be translated as "Butter week", when people eat a lot of tasty, greasy pancakes with butter and different fillings.
There are also some special traditions for every day of this week.
The first day of Maslenitsa is customarily known as "Meeting Maslenitsa". People make a "Maslenitsa doll" that symbolizes winter, using straw and cloth, place it on a pole and then fix it at the top of a snow hill.
Also, this is when people start to bake pancakes. According to an old tradition, first pancakes are given to beggars - that is how people pay the tribute to the memory of their deceased relatives.
Originally all the activities in the main streets and squares started from that day. That is where men could come to find their future brides. Also, this day was associated with so-called "smotrini", an old Russian tradition which was a part of matchmaking. Russians preferred to arrange marriages during Maslenitsa and celebrate weddings at Krasnaya Gorka holiday, which is the first Sunday after Easter.
Russians eat pancakes with fish, mushrooms, cheese, sour cream and caviar
This day is also known as "Lakomka" or "The sweet Tooth Day".
All households would serve tables with delicious food and pancakes to treat their guests during open feasts.
Traditionally on this day mothers-in-law cook pancakes and invite their sons-in-law for a meal.
It is the beginning of a so-called "Broad Maslenitsa". People used to have public holidays from Thursday to Sunday (unfortunately not anymore). They would all take to the main streets and squares of their cities to participate in outdoor activities - round dances, fist fights, sledding and ice skating.
On Wednesday mothers-in-law treated their sons-in-law to pancakes, in Russian blinis. This time latter invited their mothers-in-law for a meal. Pancakes are usually cooked by daughters-in-law.
On this day young wives invite their sisters-in-law and other relatives to their houses. If their sisters-in-law are married, they invite relatives who are also married. If sisters-in-law are single, young men are expected to attend the party.
Sunday is also called "Forgiveness Day", because on this day people ask their friends and relatives "to forgive them" for all grievances and troubles.
It is also a day when Maslenitsa doll is burned. As in old times Maslenitsa was about remembrance of the dead, burning the straw doll meant her funeral. These days, as the holiday is all about having fun, it symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The main celebrations and different festivals take place on this day. A lot of people also prefer to gather with their families.
Photo: photonomy.ru tzargrad.ru cdn1.img.sputnik.tj timeout.ru eventsinrussia.com afisha.mosreg.ru