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Maslenitsa – the Russian tradition to farewell winter

Maslenitsa – the Russian tradition to farewell winter

At the end of February all across Russia Maslenitsa (also known as ‘Pancake Week’, ‘Butter Week’ or ‘Cheese Week’) usually takes place. The traditional Russian festivity is mostly famous for its blini (pancakes) with all kinds of fillings and toppings and, of course, many fun activities such as snowball fights, sledding, and horse sleigh riding. That way Russians celebrate the arrival of the spring.

As Maslenitsa is both pagan and Christian folk holiday, it is celebrated in the last week before Great Lent or the seventh week before Eastern Orthodox Easter. This year it is celebrated from 12th to 18th of February.

The food is the most significant part of Maslenitsa. The blini, symbolizing the sun and its warmth, are the staple dish during the whole week, so Russians try to eat as many of them as possible, because the seventh day of festivities are followed by seven somber weeks of the Great Lent.

During the week of Maslenitsa there are a lot of festivities, such as sleigh riding, folk festivals, skomorokh (traveling actors) and puppet shows.  Sunday is the final day, day of forgiving – when people ask each other for forgiveness for all troubles. Then comes the most interesting and unusual part of the celebration – people burn the Maslenitsa mascot that symbolizes winter – a straw doll, dressed in a female costume with a pancake in her hand. This tradition has become an iconic symbol of the festival, and also the ritual of welcoming the forthcoming spring.  

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