Get ready to celebrate Pancake Day or Maslenitsa at Bowman Library. We’ll be observing this cheerful Russian holiday this Saturday, February 20th at 11AM in the children’s room at Bowman Library. Bring the whole family to have fun with pancake picture books, sing songs, play games, dance along with the puppets, and learn more about this Eastern European traditional holiday.
So what is Maslenitsa?
Maslenitsa or “Pancake week” is a holiday of joyous celebration; people play games, enjoy sledding and snowball fights, visit friends and family, and enjoy meatless meals, particularly those including cream, cheese, and butter and thin pancakes called blinis or crepes in a week-long celebration before the penitential season of Great Lent begins. The date changes every year as the dates of Lent and Easter shift, with this year’s Pancake week falling from the 7th to the 13th of March.
This ancient holiday’s origins are traced back to pagan times before Russia converted to Christianity. Then, the holiday was a celebration of the Spring solstice, saying goodbye to Wintertime and looking forward to the return of warmth and long sunny days. After Russia’s conversion to Christianity, the holiday also became a preparation for Great Lent, similar to the Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, and Mardi Gras celebrations in other cultures.
Every day of Maslenitsa has different traditional activities. On Monday people greet the holiday with games such as sledding, snowballs, riding on swings and so on. Russian people believe that happiness and joy which they feel during this day will accompany them throughout a year.
On Tuesday people play games and bake pancakes which are called “blini”. Blini are the most popular food which is made during this holiday. These pancakes have a round form and symbolize the Sun and warmth. On Wednesday people usually visit their friends and relatives and treat each other with blini. On Thursday by tradition people try to drive away winter by riding on horses around the village or around the places they live. Friday is usually called “Mothers’-in-law evenings” because sons-in-law come to visit their mothers-in-law. On Merry Saturday everyone goes to visit their relatives. All people drink and eat as much as they want and play different games. Sunday is the last day of the holiday. It is also called the Sunday of forgiveness because on this day everyone asks forgiveness from relatives and friends for offences and mistakes committed against them. The most appropriate answer is “God will forgive.”
After that people usually sing songs, dance and at the end of the day they burn a doll made of branches and straw and dressed in bright clothes. This doll is called “Maslenitsa” and it symbolizes the cold and severe winter. By burning “Maslenitsa” people say goodbye to winter and greet a warm spring.
We look forward to you joining us for a fantastic Maslenitsa celebration!