Folk Holidays in Russia

By: Alexandra Sharova

One of possibly the most beloved folk holidays back home and definitely one of my favourite holiday celebrations is Maslenitsa or Shrovetide.

Maslenitsa is Russia’s version of the spring carnival that celebrates the return of warmer weather. This year’s Maslenitsa celebrations are held from Feb. 24 through March 2.

When I was a kid, I was always looking forward to mounds of pancakes, or in Russian blini, made by my grandma, as well as the burning of Maslenitsa effigy that symbolizes the winter.

I remember watching my grandma mixing all the ingredients and then pouring the batter onto the frying pan. I remember how the white batter covered the black surface of the frying pan, first looking like yin and yang symbol, and then swallowing the rest of the pan’s surface reminding me of the surface of the moon.

Dating back to pagan times, Maslenitsa ceremonies meant to welcome the return of the life-giving spring sun and the renewal of nature. Because of this, the most characteristic food of the holiday is pancakes. The rich pancakes are seen as a symbol of the sun due to their round form and golden colour. Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before Lent, in preparation for Easter.

What I like the most about this holiday’s characteristic food is the simplicity of its preparation. You don’t have to be a chef in the kitchen to be able to make really great and tasty pancakes. Also, you can always experiment with ingredients – cherry pancakes, pancakes with nuts and raspberries, with ice cream and fruits, with salmon, with cheese (all of these are my grandma’s creations and recipes). In other words pretty much anything. Your imagination is the only limit.

Besides, you don’t have to wait till Maslenitsa to make pancakes – they are the perfect match for pretty much every meal.