This week Russians celebrate Maslenitsa - a traditional festival held to welcome the upcoming spring. Since Monday people have been making and eating pancakes - or "blini" as we call them here - the symbols of the sun coming to its force and melting the snow of winter away. And during the weekend huge feasts are going to be held throughout the country with burning of the female-shaped scarecrows - Maslenitsas - that represent the spirits of cold weather.
One of our sections, ESN HSE Moscow, has prepared a plan for you to celebrate Maslenitsa Week properly. We are happy to share it below:
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.
So, until the end of this week, be sure to prepare some pancakes and have a small walk, breathing in the air of the upcoming spring. Happy Maslenitsa!
Author: Alina Yakovenko
Special thanks to: Ekaterina Fedko, Irina Klimova and Anastasia Sazonova (ESN HSE Moscow)