History, traditions

Maslenitsa is in town!

This week Russia celebrates Maslenitsa-Russian pancake feast, an ancient Slavic holiday.

Its roots go deep into the pagan culture. These seven days (February 16-22) precede Lent. In ancient times, it was czar who decided the official beginning of Maslenitsa. He attended all prisons and alms-houses and made considerable donations. Afterwards, he attended a mass at the cathedral plaza right be the Moscow Kremlin. The next day, people would flood the streets and celebrate the feast, Pancake Feast…

The holiday signifies a symbolic farewell to the long and boring winter. In fact, Maslenitsa is winter itself and people try to get rid of it.  Easter in turn symbolizes the approach of the spring. Therefore, as it turns out, Lent is a middle ground between a “farewell” and a “meeting.”

A slay-train which is often led by several decorated horses consisted of many slays. In Western Siberia, for instance, such “train” was also equipped with masts and sails. The leading sails had a log inside, which was attached to a wheel. “Maslenitsa” was sitting atop that wheel. This was an aged, slightly drunk man, fully covered with besom used in Russian baths, and armed with Russian famous musical instrument Balalaika.

In other villages, people would place scarecrows in slays. Obviously, this wasn’t as much fun as a live person.

Monday. People start making “baked suns”, or blyni (Russian pancakes). Most often, the all-knowing mother in law was leading the process of cooking. She would use only her own, personal “equipment”: a trivet, a frying pan and a special vat for the dough. Her daughter, in turn, had nothing else to do but to watch her mother's craftsmanship.

On Tuesday, people usually visit their friends and host parties at their homes. Young men are scouting their future wives and ladies search for their future husbands.

Wednesday is a real feast.

The next day (Thursday), everyone would go outside and participate in fistfights. In ancient times, even women participated in those fights. Interestingly, broken jaws, broken ribs arms and fingers were all regarded as a goof omen.

Friday. This day is often called “an evening with a mother in law”. Respectful sons in law would visit their mothers in law on this day and enjoy a delicious meal in each other's company.

Saturday is a women's day! Girlfriends gather together to discuss their problems, men…while eating delicious bliny.

The next day, Sunday, is called “Farewell” or “Forgiving Sunday”. Once again, everyone gathers for an unforgettable slay ride. Afterwards, people prepare a scarecrow and burn it. It is immensely important to ask your relatives, friends, loved ones for forgiveness on this day.

The next Monday is considered to be “Clean Monday”. It signifies the official beginning of Lent…Lent is often viewed as a way towards an everlasting Spring, towards Jesus' resurrection…


Vladimir Pokrovski
Source: NewsInfo