This week, Slavic people are celebrating Maslenitsa (20th February – 26th of February, 2012).
Maslenitsa (Russian: Ма́сленица) is a Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian) religious and folk holiday. It is also known as Butter Week, Pancake week or Cheese-fare Week. It is the seventh week before Easter (Russian: Па́сха, Paskha). The Orthodox date of Easter sometimes differs from the Western Christian Easter date. In 2012, for example, Western world will be celebrating Easter on April 8; and Orthodox Christians will be celebrating it on April 15. That’s why Maslenitsa week varies each year. This Slavic holiday is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent. Orthodox Lent begins on Monday after Maslenitsa. It’s very similar to “Mardi Gras” (Carnival Season), with the exception of Lent in Western Christianity beginning on Wednesday.
Maslenitsa is both folk and Christian holiday. It is a celebration of the end of the winter season and rebirth of sun. The main dish of Maslenitsa is bliny (pancakes), made from eggs, milk and flour (though original Russian blin is made from yeast and dairy products). People say that a “blin”/ “blintz” is round and golden like sun.
For Christians, Maslenitsa is the last week before the Great Lent. No meat is allowed during this week. Orthodox Christians can eat only dairy products, including cheese, that’s why the other name of this week is “Cheese-fare week”. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden, as well as music, dancing and parties. That’s why Maslenitsa is a great time to eat “bliny” (pancakes), and sing and dance before a 48 day long Lent.
Maslenitsa is a wonderful way to celebrate Slavic culture, enjoy the end of the winter, and for Christians to have fun before the Great Lent. Sunny “bliny” are warming up people’s hearts inside when it’s still freezing outside.
Here is an interesting video of Maslenitsa celebration in Russia.