Yesterday marked the start of Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, a traditional festival celebrating the end of winter and the start of spring. The seven-day celebration is also a time for feasting and fun before Orthodox Christians settle in for the Great Lent. How will your special lady observe Maslenitsa?
Bliny, or pancakes, are the centerpiece of Maslenitsa and the perfect way for revelers to enjoy foods prepared with eggs, butter, and milk, ingredients all banned during Lent. The round, golden treats also represent the sun and warmth of the impending spring.
During Maslenitsa, revelers prepare bliny with a variety of toppings and fillings and invite family and friends to enjoy the feast. Public celebrations are also common. Each year, Moscow’s Kamergersky Pereulok is transformed into “Gluttony Row,” offering a wide variety of pancakes. Common toppings include syrup and fruit, but revelers can also try more interesting combinations like sour cream and caviar.
However, Maslenitsa isn’t just about bliny. During the week of festivities, revelers spend a lot of time outdoors, riding sleds or throwing snowballs at friends. Arm wrestling matches and rope pulling contests are also common in rural areas. Traditions vary from region to region, with some areas designating a special activity for each day.
At the end of the celebration, known as Forgiveness Sunday, celebrants try to patch up old feuds by seeking forgiveness from wronged parties. On Sunday evening, the party is officially over, and former revelers throw leftover pancakes into a fire, along with lady Maslenitsa, a straw effigy serving as the festival’s mascot (above).
You don’t have to live in Eastern Europe to enjoy Maslenitsa. Many cities around the world host special events in honor of Pancake Week. Check your local newspaper or online listings for more information. In the meantime, here are a few women from HRB demonstrating their bliny-making skills.