In March last year, I attended one of the most popular celebrations in Russia, which is called Maslenitsa – Pancake Day. At first, I had no idea what that was. What I knew was in that day, people ate too much pancake along with the side dish : vareniya a.k.a jam made from fruits. I didn’t even know the history behind it until finally, I tried to read it in my book, which later I regretted as it was a really bad decision (my Russian that day was not as so …… as today – now I don’t even know how to describe about my Russian level).
So, based on what I read, here is the history:
This celebration came from an ancient culture which was influenced later by Orthodox Christianity. The main purpose is to say farewell to the long winter and welcome the spring. That is why Maslenitsa is often held in March and related to the work of farmers, as in winter farmers normally stop working until spring comes.
So briefly, isn’t it? Yes, it is. Nevertheless, I think the idea about Maslenitsa has been accepted by me. I meant, okay, I am pleased as well to say farewell to the long winter and welcome the spring which actually comes normally a month later. I was even freezed in the field where this celebration was held and it was in March.
People nowadays, whether they are adult or kids, go on the streets, dressing themselves in Russian traditional costumes, dancing, singing and eating pancake which is known as Blini. So, no wonder, you will see many people on street using traditional costumes. The standard one is : women normally in long skirt and platok (scarf) and men, I almost didn’t saw men in their traditional costumes. Except these ones:
Based on Russian ancient tradition, on Maslenitsa day, the owners of the house or hosts must clean their house, and their farm while women prepare Blini to serve to the guests. For your information, Blini or Russian Pancake is really different from American Pancake. American Pancake is much thicker than the Russian equivalent and hard to fold. Russian pancakes are easy to fold, Russians don’t eat pancake with a knife and fork), they are thin and they are not eaten with maple syrup, but with cream cheese (Tvorog), jam, meat, cheese, sour cream (Smetana) and so forth – it depends on your preference. You can even eat Blini with chocolate or ice cream – it is not a sin! Me myself, I love blini with orange jam.
What else can you see, beside pancake?
You can see many things, if you someday visit Russia on Maslenitsa. The people from the cities normally hold a big celebration in a big field which is normally located in the center of the town. You can go for a walk around a small market, dancing with Russian girls in traditional costume or maybe like me, take a picture with one guy in a costume of an executioner from middle age.They Various games are played on Maslenitsa. You can find everything from slides to clowns who are ready to amuse you. Story tellers will undoubtedly enchant the kids with Russian Stories with their performances.
In the past, people celebrated Maslenitsa for 7 days. Every day in Maslenitsa had its own meaning. Monday means meeting: this is the day for meeting your guests or friends. Tuesday means game, when adults and kids play games together, such as board games, cards and riding horses. And on Wednesday, it is the day for delicacies, because this is when people gather and eat Blini together with their familyies. Yet, I must correct myself here, because not only with your family, but also with your fiancée , of course.
Thursday has become the longest day in Maslenitsa, which is why it is called, Широкая Масленица (Shirokaya Maslenitsa), meaning wide Maslenitsa. Friday and Saturday are dedicated to married women, as Friday normally it is the day for you to meet your mother-in-law, and on Saturday, it is day for meeting your sister-in-law. The last day is Sunday which has always been known as Forgiving Day. This is the day for apologising to your family, friends, acquaintances in case during the whole previous year, for some reason, you offended them. The end of Maslenitsa, is as well the beginning of long Russian fasting period which lasts 40 days until Easter which falls on 1st May.