Maslenitsa, a traditional Slavic festival, takes place during the last week before the start of the Orthodox Lent season and marks the end of winter. Maslenitsa is also known as “Butter Week” (“maslo” is the Russian word for butter) and “Pancake Week” (their round shape symbolizes the sun). Lots and lots of pancakes are eaten during this week!
Blini, thin Russian pancakes, are drenched in butter and can be filled with sweet (fruit jams, honey) or savory (smoked salmon, caviar) ingredients.
In addition to eating pancakes, there are specific traditions associated with each day of the week.
- Monday is for visiting friends and family, and welcoming guests (and eating blini, of course). “Lady Maslenitsa,” a straw doll to represent winter, is made and dressed in old women’s clothing. She is attached to a pole, paraded around, and placed on the snow hill for the festival.
- Tuesday is for winter activities (and more blini)! Sledding, skating, or taking a winter walk.
- “Sweet Day” is Wednesday. You guessed it! More blini! Restaurants and cafes offer special menus with a wide variety of blini to try.
- The fourth day is “Revelry Thursday” – outdoor activities like sleigh rides, sledding, ice skating, and snowball fights are common. And more feasting (Lent is starting soon).
- Friday is traditionally a day for mothers and mothers-in-laws. Visiting and … eating blini!
- On Saturday, there are more family gatherings, parades, street festivals, concerts, dancing, bazaars, games for kids, and …blini!
- Forgiveness Day on Sunday is the most important day of celebration. People ask for and give forgiveness. It is a day of unity and joy. The festival closes with the burning of “Lady Maslenitsa” in a bonfire. The cold weather of winter is to be taken away with the smoke.