Seven days of Maslenitsa
Maslenitsa (Масленица) is in full swing in Russia! This jolly holiday celebrates saying farewell to winter and greeting the long-awaited spring. It is also, perhaps, the most fun holiday in Russia. Just imagine the Pancake Day that lasts for a whole week! Instead of pancakes though, Russians make blinis (блины) and serve the sweet version of them with sour cream (сметана), condensed milk (сгущённое молоко aka сгущенка) and jam (варенье) whilst savoury blinis are accompanied by smoked salmon, minced beef and caviar (икра). Maslenitsa’s blinis play very important part in the holiday as they symbolise the sun – just as round, yellow and hot. Apart from making and eating blinis, there are other traditions associated with this fun celebration of spring. In fact, each day of Maslenitsa week has its own meaning and traditions.
The first day of Maslenitsa is always Monday. Everyone is excited to welcome the holiday as the making of blinis commences. Traditionally, the first blin was given to the needy to remember the deceased relatives. On that day, people would also make a straw-stuffed figure of Winter that resembles a scarecrow (чучело – see the image above). The scarecrow will then be put up on a snow mountain, where the sledging would begin shortly after.
Tuesday was the day of «Zaigryshi» (Заигрыши) – the day of matchmaking and flirting of young unmarried girls and boys. Matchmaking (сватовство) was very common in Russia, especially during Maslenitsa so that the wedding could take place straight after the end of the Great Lent (Великий Пост).
Wednesday was called «Lakomka» (Лакомка), when the mother-in-law (теща) would invite her son-in-law (зять) along the other friends for some blinis.
Thursday was «Razgul» (Разгул) – the most fun day of the week as the real celebrations would begin. Amongst the fun activities were jumping through the fire, singing traditional songs, fistfights, horse-riding and various competitions along with dancing and eating blinis.
On that day, the mother-in-law would visit her son-in-law with a return visit. She would also bring her friends and relatives along. It was her daughter’s responsibility to make the blinis this time whilst her son-in-law had to demonstrate the love and respect towards her and her relatives.
On Saturday the young wives were visited by their sisters-in-law and other relatives of the husband. If the sisters-in-law were not married, then the young wives would invite their unmarried friends. Should they already be married – their families would come along. The newly-wedded wives were supposed to give their sisters-in-law some presents.
On that day people asked each other for forgiveness for anything bad they have said or done to each other. On the last day of Maslenitsa would also take place the most interesting event – saying goodbye to Maslenitsa by burning the scarecrow. The «Sunday of Forgiveness» (Прощенное воскресенье) and the burning of the scarecrow are still the traditions very much alive to this day.
Overall, Maslenitsa was and still is a beloved period when people spend time with their loved ones, neighbours, relatives and friends. Even though many of those traditions are outdated for our times, some of them are still followed. Happy Maslenitsa everyone!