In case you haven’t noticed, this week is Maslenitsa (Ма́сленица)!
This is a week long event, starting this year on the 24th of February and ending this Sunday, the 2nd of March, in which the most important part is to eat as many blini (блины) as possible! Maslenitsa is essentially a week long Pancake Day, and is part of the preparations for Lent. In Orthodox Christianity, people are supposed to give up all animal-based foods (think milk, butter, meat, eggs, etc) as well as alcohol, swearing and bad thoughts in general! Sounds tricky and it definitely is, which is why Russians spend a week eating as many blini as possible to make up for forty days without animal products!
Maslenitsa also has pagan roots, and is the festival to celebrate the end of winter. You’ll have noticed that the days are much longer and brighter now than in the winter, even than just a few weeks ago! To celebrate this, people eat (you guessed it!) blini because they’re round and yellow and represent the sun!
There’s lots happening in St Petersburg this weekend, including the fourth annual International Festival of Traditional Culture, which takes place on Yelagin Island at the Kirov Central Park of Culture. The program will last from 11am to 7pm on both Saturday and Sunday and features folk music, dancing and an international crafts fair!
At the Babushkina Park of Culture there’ll be celebrations on both Saturday and Sunday and last from 1pm to 6pm, including a fire show and the launching of Chinese paper lanterns on the 2nd of March.
On Sunday, the last day of Maslenitsa, when we’re all stuffed full of blini, human shaped effigies are set on fire to symbolise the end of winter, and this year at Pskov, just outside St Petersburg, there’ll be a ten foot tall effigy that will probably burn all night long!
If you don’t want to head that far out, then make sure you go to one of the larger parks on Sunday to join in the fun! But above all, make sure you eat as many blini as humanly possible!
Jade Mitchell-Ross is an English student, currently on an internship while studying Russian at Liden & Denz