Traditionally, Maslenitsa is considered to one of the most popular holidays in Russia. Noisy merry parties, bright outfits, a rich table - truly, the embodiment of the Russian soul. In the Shrovetide week, festive fairs and bazaars are gathered everywhere, various games and festivities are organized, and of course, the highlights of the show - pancakes are cooked. Maslenitsa is one of the most popular folk festivals. This year the Shrovetide week will begin on 12 February. The capital will house most of the festive activities. Theatrical performances, merry competitions with all sorts of prizes and various entertainments will be held on capital squares. Not only you can taste hot pancakes and enjoy various festive activities there, but you can also buy beautiful souvenirs. Most of these programs are free, but there are also special kind of events, that you can pay for to book yourself a place.
In the old days, carnival purpose was different: it was meant to honor the dead. So, burning the Maslenitsa Lady represented her funeral, and pancakes were meant to be a funeral treat. But time has passed, and the Russian men, looking for fun and rest, turned a sad holiday into a cheerful Shrovetide. The meaning of rituals changed, but, to this day the list of activities is the same – pancakes, sleigh riding, fist fights and singing.
Shrovetide ceremonies are very unusual and interesting, as they combine the end of the winter festive ritual and the opening of a new spring period of festivals and rituals that were supposed to contribute to a rich harvest. Shrovetide is celebrated for a whole week before Lent. Every day of the Shrovetide week has its own special rituals. On Monday people greet Lady Maslenitsa. On that day, a stuffed woman is made of straw, dressed in old women's clothes, and, with singing, carried on a sleigh through the village or city. Then the scarecrow was put on a snow mountain, where the sledding began. Later, it will be burned, and the Spring can officially begin! The other symbol of Shrovetide is Petrushka – puppet jester, that is featured in all the puppet theaters. You cannot think or talk about Maslenitsa, without mentioning its delicious treats. You can taste roasted nuts, honey cakes, sbiten (drinks made from water, honey and spices) and pancakes of all flavors: with caviar, sour cream, condensed milk or chocolate. You can drink tea from a boiling samovar right under the open sky.
The streets are buzzing cheerfully, with mummers walking around, wearing their masks, traveling around familiar homes, where impromptu home concerts are arranged. Big companies skate through the city on simple sledges. In the days of old people watched trained bears: they skated, pretended to cook or parodied girls, that prepare themselves for a date. Such was a colorful celebration then, and such it remains to this day. Happy, colorful, carefree. People are tired of cold clutches of Winter and want to greet a new season.
Shrovetide was a pagan holiday, which the Christians later adopted, but the main thing about this celebration is not about the Faith. It’s a truly “warm” celebration that is about fun, hope and kindness.