What do pancakes, scarecrows, and fistfights all have in common?
No, it’s not a clever riddle. They’re actually all part of the Russian tradition called Maslenitsa, also known as “Pancake Week.”
Once Pagan, Now Celebrated!
Before the church was established in 988 AD, Maslenitsa was a pagan tradition. Pancake week is still celebrated today, but is no longer considered pagan. Today marks the first day of Maslenitsa (March 8th to the 14th) which is celebrated the week before the start of Lent and the Easter season.
Pass Me the Pancakes, Please!
Why pancakes? Because pancakes are high in calories and don’t contain any meat (meat is strictly forbidden the week before and during Lent). So it’s a perfect food to indulge in before Lent’s six week fast begins. These delicious pancakes are served smothered in butter, honey, and fresh cream. Sometimes caviar (small fish eggs) are even used. These are considered a delicacy.
What a Show!
During the week of Maslenitsa, great entertainment is always going on. Snow forts are built, people sled down hills, and funny skits are performed. Even playful fist fights break out in an attempt to show off for the single girls. However, the celebrations don’t stop there. Every day of the week holds a special event.
Week of Celebrations!
Monday: The Greeting – Families and in-laws come together and decide where to celebrate and who to invite. Tables are set with mouth-watering sweet treats and young wives are taught how to make pancakes.
Tuesday: Zaigryshi – This is a fun day with the start of games like sledding and swinging on swings.
Wednesday: The Sweet Tooth’s Day – You might agree that this day is the best of all when eating as much food as you can is actually encouraged.
Thursday: Lavish Day = No one is allowed to work on this day. Special vehicles (troikas) are pulled by horses and are part of the festivities.
Friday: Good Mother’s Evening – This day is for all the mothers-in-law. Their daughter’s husbands invite them to a party and treat them with, what else? Pancakes!
Saturday: Good Daughter’s Parties – Tis day rings in with the young wives inviting their husband’s family to a party. There’s always plenty of food, fun, and celebrations here.
Sunday: Forgiveness Day – This day wraps up the festivities. As the title suggests, it’s a day to make up with the people who may have wronged you in the past. It’s also the day the traditional scarecrow is built and burned. The ashes from this are then scattered across the fields in hopes of good crops.
Help celebrate Maslenitsa this year with your festivities. Eat some pancakes, do some sledding, even forgive someone. However, try to avoid fistfights, even if it is tradition!