Do you guys eat blinis all the time or just on some special holidays?
Yes, we eat blinis(Russian pancakes) time from time all year round. But this particular week is when all Russians eat pancakes every day. This week is called Maslenitsa or Butter Week (from “maslo” – butter).
See the beautiful paintings of Maslenitsa by Boris Kustodiev, Simon Kozhin and Leonid Solomatkin:
Maslenitsa has dual ancestry – it is a pagan holiday – a farewell of winter. In the same time Maslenitsa is tied to the Christian orthodox calendar – it happens a week before the Great Lent. During this week church allows to eat dairy products and fish
Most people believe that round pancakes symbolize sun and the variety of fillings symbolize prosperity and fertility of land
Maslenitsa is a fun week. In addition to eating numerous pancakes, people play a lot. But this week is also highly structured – each day is supposed to be devoted to the certain activities and has its own meaning. Not all people follow these rules in modern times, but all Russians definitely celebrate Maslenitsa and pancakes are the center of attention every day:
Monday is the Welcoming – people build ice-hills, bazaar pavilions and Maslenitsa scarecrows (giant dolls made out of straw and old clothes). People start baking pancakes
Tuesday is the Playing – people engage in games and activities outdoors, single girls do fortune telling, matchmaking is going on
Wednesday is the Sweet-Tooth day. On that day sons-in-law are invited to enjoy pancakes by their mothers-in-law
Thursday is the day when the Wide Maslenitsa starts and people should stop doing any household chores and just have fun for the rest of the week. That day is usually called Wide Thursday. People enjoy festive parties, visit bazaars, play games outdoors and do sledding. In old times that was also a day for fist-fighting tournaments
Friday is the day when sons-in-law should treat their mothers-in-law to pancakes
Saturday is the day, when young wives invite their sisters-in-law to eat pancakes and give them presents
Finally, Sunday is the Forgiveness Day – you are supposed to ask everybody you know for forgiveness for any harm you might have done intentionally or unintentionally during the previous year. It is also a day, when the Maslenitsa scarecrow is burnt and its ashes are scattered at the fields to end the winter and bring the good harvest in the coming season.
I am a mind reader; I know what you are thinking now. How can people eat pancakes every day for an entire week?! Right? The answer is in the great variety of both pancakes and fillings. Learn everything you need to know about Russian blinis see photos and recipes in the next post!