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Здравствуй, Масленица!

Maslenitsa, also known as Butter Week or Crepe week, is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before the Great Lent—that is, the eighth week before Eastern Orthodox Easter. Maslenitsa has its origin in both pagan and Christian traditions. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a celebration of the imminent end of the winter. On the Christian side, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent. During the week of Maslenitsa, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians, and it is the last week during which milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden. Furthermore, Lent also excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life. Thus, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to partake of dairy products and those social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.

Блины

The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is блины - blini (pancakes or crepes). Round and golden, they are made from the rich products still allowed by the Orthodox tradition that week: butter, eggs and milk. During pagan times, the round and golden shape and color signified praise to the Sun because of pancakes' resemblance to it.

There are hundreds of different recipes of making blini. They vary from house to house, depending on people’s tastes. Pancakes can be eaten plain or with various dressings on top – butter, sour cream, honey, caviar, jam or whatever.

ОЙ БЛИНЫ МОИ, БЛИНЫ!
Do you want to make perfect Russian blini? Check out my secrets.

ПОСЛОВИЦЫ И ПОГОВОРКИ О БЛИНАХ

Throughout the centuries, Russians have created a few proverbs and saying about blini, which shows the nation's affection to their traditional food.

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Maslenitsa has always been celebrated, even during the Soviet times when all religious holidays were banned. People would then observe the festive side of the holiday, prepare pancakes and gather together with friends and relatives. But before that time, the week was important in many ways, social and religious. For that reason, people would not only gather and celebrate the end of winter, the return of life after a harsh winter, but also show their love to close relatives and ask for forgiveness. The week of Maslenitsa was traditionally scheduled as follow:

 

КАЛЕНДАРЬ МАСЛЕНИЦЫ

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ЗАИГРЫШ

Во второй день, который называется Заигрыш, дома не сидят. Ходят к друг другу в гости, устраивают посиделки с песнями и плясками. В праздник поют шутливые, игривые, озорные песни. Поскольку Масленица – неделя веселья перед Великим постом, в эти дни позволяют вести себя более раскованно, чем в обычное время. Поэтому большинство песен деликатного содержания. В них всячески обыгрываются отношения между мужчиной и женщиной. Кроме того, в Масленицу прощаются с зимой, и обрядовой песней стараются скорее призвать весну и солнце.

Заигрыш поэтому так и называется, что молодёжь заигрывает друг с другом. Парни приглашают девушек танцевать. Все вместе водят хороводы, играют. Масленичные потехи устраиваются для знакомства будущих жениха и невесты с расчётом сыграть свадьбу после поста на Красной Горке.

В Заигрыш вечеринки устраиваются не только для неженатых молодых людей. В этот день проводятся домашние посиделки и для молодожёнов. Большое внимание уделяется укреплению семейных отношений.

Чем ближе к Прощёному воскресенью, тем веселее празднует народ. Стараются наиграться и нагуляться на все семь недель Великого поста.

 

On the second day of Maslenitsa, called the Playing (За́игрыш), people do not stay at home. They go on visits and get together for cheerful singing and dancing. On this holiday, they sing humorous, playful, and naughty songs. Because Maslenitsa is a week of fun before the Great Lent, during this holiday, people are allowed to behave in a more relaxed, uninhibited way than normally. Therefore, most of the songs have naughty and even spicy content, sketching the relationship between a man and a woman. In addition, by singing ritual songs during Maslenitsa, people say goodbye to winter and welcome the spring and the sun.

The reason why the Playing day is called this way is that young people flirt with each other. Young men invite girls to dance and play in a circle with other couples. The purpose of these Maslenitsa activities is to introduce possible brides and grooms to each other with expectations to get married after Easter.

On the Playing day, home gatherings are arranged not only for unmarried young people, but for newlyweds as well. A lot of attention is paid to strengthening of family relationships.

The closer it is to Forgiveness Sunday, the more cheerful people celebrate. It seems they try to have enough playful and enjoyable time before the seven-week Great Lent begins.

ШИРОКАЯ МАСЛЕНИЦА

Гуляй, народ! Масленица идёт! (Go ahead, folks! Celebrate! Maslenitsa is on!) On Thursday, which is called Broad Maslenitsa - Широкая Масленица or Разгуляй, people continue celebrating with lots of fun activities. Some of them are:

  • кула́чный бой = fist fighting 

  • ката́ние на саня́х = sleigh riding

  • хорово́д = an ancient group folk dance of many Slavic peoples, in which participants hold hand and go around in a circle while singing songs 

  • прыжки́ че́рез костёр = jumping over a bonfire

  • ру́сские наро́дные пе́сни и та́нцы = Russian folk songs and dances

  • сне́жный бой = snowball fighting

    перетя́гивание кана́та   = tug-of war (a contest in which two teams pull at opposite ends of a rope until one drags the other over a central line)

ЧУЧЕЛО МАСЛЕНИЦЫ

The Maslenitsa doll or Lady Maslenitsa is a brightly dressed straw effigy of Maslenitsa. As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is escorted to the end of the village or the village square, stripped of her finery, and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blini are also thrown on the fire, and Lady Maslenitsa's ashes are buried in the snow (to "fertilize the crops"). After this ritual, the Great Lent officially begins.

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ПРОЩЁНОЕ ВОСКРЕСЕНЬЕ

The last day of Maslenitsa is called Прощёное воскресенье - Forgiveness Sunday. According to the Christian tradition, people ask their relatives and friends (and even complete strangers) for forgiveness. The most appropriate response is "Бог прости́т" (God will forgive).

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весе́лье = merriment Photography: © Бибичков Михаил