There is only one week left before spring comes, and Russia has started celebrating Maslenitsa – one of the most colourful and joyful folk holidays!
Even though the tradition of Maslenitsa goes back to pagan times, it has become an important part of Christian culture, when people bid farewell to winter and welcome spring. Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent, and this is the last time Orthodox Christians can pamper themselves by enjoying cheerful social activities and rich foods.
Apart from eating blinis (Russian pancakes, which also symbolize the sun due to their round form and yellow colour), there are also other customs for each Maslenitsa Day. Take the chance to celebrate Maslenitsa like a Russian using our week guide:
Monday: People start building Lady Maslenitsa, which is basically an effigy made out of straw decorated with rags, and bake blinis. The first ones should be offered to the poor.
Tuesday: Young men search for a fiancée to marry after Great Lent. To succeed in this difficult task, they go out for sledding and ice skating and play various games with young ladies.
Wednesday: It is the Sweet Tooth day. Sons-in-law used to visit their mothers-in-law, who would make bliny and set the table, so that everyone could eat as much as one's stomach would please.
Thursday: Time for outdoor activities! People do not work anymore and dedicate all their spare time to enjoy themselves. Children used to dress up for the occasion and walk from house to house asking for blinis (sounds so familiar and Halloweenish, huh?)
Friday: Sons-in-law send reciprocal invitations to their mothers-in-law. Young couples used to dress fancy and go sledding to show off their prosperity and well-being.
Saturday: Young wives used to invite their sisters-in-law to work on their mutual relationship. Sisters-in-law tended to be suspicious of the beloved of their brothers. They are called 'zolovka' in Russian (from the word 'zlo' - 'evil' in Russian), which is rather self-explanatory.
Sunday: The last day of Maslenitsa week is called Forgiveness Sunday. As you can guess from the name, relatives and friends ask each other for forgiveness. It is thought that you should leave all your hatred and insults behind and start 'a new life' on Monday. People have fun, sing songs, and play games together… The culmination of the festival comes when Lady Maslenitsa is burnt and the ashes are buried for better future crops.
Monday is the beginning of seven-week Great Lent.
This is how Russians spend the last days of winter and finally welcome spring. Now when you have learnt a lot about our traditional holiday, we invite you to join our own celebration this Sunday, February 26 in Dorm 5. You will be treated with blinis and find lots of love on this Forgiveness Sunday!
P.S. Don’t forget to bring jam and sour cream :)
Authors: Ekaterina Fedko and Irina Klimova
Editor: Anastasia Sazonova