Russian Language Blog

Масленица: A Farewell To Winter! Posted by on Mar 1, 2008 in Culture, Traditions

Do not be afraid, and do try not to be confused, if some Russian tells you that March 1st is the first day of spring in Russia. It may be hard to believe if you take a look around; especially with below zero temperatures lingering in many parts of the country and most of it still covered in thick blankets of snow. But since winter has been a gloomy and frosty reality for over four months already here it is easy to understand why one would want to rush the arrival of spring. Usually the traditional Slavic holiday of Масленица [derives from the word масло, meaning ’butter, oil’ and is usually translated into English as “Pancake Week”, “Cheese fare Week” or “Butter week”] is celebrated in February, but this year due to Orthodox Easter falling on the end of April, a month later than Easter in Catholic and Lutheran countries, it is celebrated when spring has already ‘officially’ arrived. Though to jump to conclusions and assume that Масленица is a Christian tradition would be making a mistake – it may have been well adapted to new rules and regulations when good old Русь [Rus’] took on Christianity, but it is still as pagan as can be.


In Slavic Mythology, Масленица is a sun festival, celebrating the end of winter. The festival lasts for one week, in 2008 from March 2nd till March 8th [finishing and then sliding right into the national day off Междонародный женский день (International Women’s Day)], and is celebrated in a variety of different ways, though the tastiest of them all must be the baking of блины [Russian pancakes]. Блины symbolizes the sun as they are round, golden and warm. This has created the perfect setting for the Christian side of the holiday, as it is the last week before the onset of Великий пост [Great Lent]. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden, and thus Масленица represents the last chance to feast on dairy products before 40 days of replacing them with nuts and beans like a regular Western-style vegan.

On Sunday evening, as the culmination, Lady Maslenitsa [the mascot of the celebration that is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy, formerly known as Кострома] is stripped of her robes and put to the flames of a bonfire. Her ashes are buried in the snow to ‘fertilize the crops’. And no matter how much fun that can be, as seen on the picture below, I must admit that the most fun involved in this holiday is the fun of eating pancakes. Today, which also happens to be Election Day in Russian Federation, people everywhere will gather friends and family and make pancakes to be served with caviar and jam and сметана [a kind of sour crème] and meat and mushrooms and honey and nuts and what ever you might prefer to put on them!


Here’s a Russian recipe for traditional Russian pancakes:

Мука 2,5 стакана [flour 2,5 cups]
Яйца 4-5 штука [eggs 4-5]
Сахар 100 г. [sugar 100 gr.]
Масло 200 г. [butter 200 gr.]
Молоко 3-4 стакана [Milk 3-4 cups]
Немножко соли [a little bit of salt]

Для обыкновенных, тонких блинчиков тесто готовят из муки, молока, яиц и соли.
Для начала нужно отделить желтки от белков. Затем растереть желтки с сахаром, понемногу вливая в полученную смесь молоко. Следом добавляют соль и растопленное, разогретое сливочное масло. Осторожно всыпают муку и размешивают до получения однородной массы (главное, чтобы не было комочков!). В последнюю очередь добавляют пену взбитых белков. Блинчики выпекаются на смазанных маслом раскаленных сковородках.

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