Maslenitsa in Russia: Pouring on the Pancakes

Maslenitsa in Russia: Pouring on the Pancakes

Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, is a favorite holiday in Russia. Because it began as a pagan celebration of winter’s end, Maslenitsa was not targeted by the Soviets, who frowned on religious holidays. Today its Christian content is more acceptable, and it’s celebrated both as a pagan springtime rite and, similar to Carnival, a last fling before Lent prohibits all pleasurable things.

Mark Your Calendar: Pancake WeekIn 2019, Matslenitsa starts on Monday, March 4, and ends on Sunday, March 10.

Maslenitsa pancakes<br>Photo credit: Alfiya Izmailova

Maslenitsa pancakes
Photo credit: Alfiya Izmailova

A Buttery BatterMaslenitsa’s name derives from the Russian world for butter, and it’s sometimes called Butter Week or Cheese Week, because, although meat is forbidden in the week before Lent, people can still eat butter, eggs and milk until the end of the week.

A big part of Pancake Week involves making and consuming blini, the crepe-like Russian pancake made with yeast, flour, milk, eggs and butter. Blini are round and golden like the sun, and in pagan times, eating blini was like taking in the sun’s warmth and power. Making blini is also a good way to use up the milk, eggs and butter before they are prohibited by the Lenten fasting regimen.

Blinis with caviarPhoto credit: Peter Sukonik

Blini with caviar
Photo credit: Peter Sukonik

Maslenitsa TraditionsToday Maslenitsa is celebrated mainly on Saturday and Sunday, but it used to be celebrated for a week. Different activities took place each day, with one day set aside for sledding, one for visiting your mother-in-law, one for troika-riding and puppet shows, and one day, the Sunday, for forgiving each other.

On the first day of the week, people make a scarecrow called Maslenitsa (formerly named Kostroma, a Slavic fertility goddess) and on the last day of the week they take her out into the town square and burn her, signifying the end of winter.

In Moscow you can still find some form of Maslenitsa festivity each night of the week, and on Sunday the symbolic burning of Lady Maslenitsa takes place in Red Square. The worst of the winter cold is blown away with the smoke, clearing the way for spring.

<i>Troika ride</i> in Russia<br>Photo credit: MIR Corporation

Troika ride in Russia
Photo credit: MIR Corporation

Travel to Russia with MIR

Ready for some Russian blini? They’re on the menu whether it’s Pancake Week or not.

MIR has more than 30 years travel experience to Russia, with affiliate offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia offering on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

MIR offers a variety of small group tours and rail journeys by private train to Russia.

You can also book a hand-crafted, custom private journey based on your interests and timeline. MIR’s knowledgeable guides offer unique perspectives and insider information that only an on-the-ground local would know, making your journey utterly unique and unforgettable.

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your next trip.


(Top photo: Making Russian blini. Photo credit: Peter Sukonik)

PUBLISHED: February 2, 2016

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