Culture Article #1: For the Joy of Sharing

Maslenitsa

By Natalia Vardhan
School Teacher, Sumerlya, Russia

I am an energetic lady in spite of my late 40s, living in a small but quiet, green and beautiful Russian town Sumerlya and working as a school teacher. I like making something beautiful and practical as well. I just adore India and hope to visit again this amazing country with its stunning beauty of ancient culture and traditions, world wisdom, wonderful people and nature.


Foreword by Venkat

First of all I convey gratitude to Ms. Natalia for sharing this wonderful depiction of the Russian festival ‘Maslenitsa’. She is an amazing person who appreciates Indian festivals and even cooks Indian food! For us in India the spring festival is of great significance and celebrated in different ways across Indian states. So Maslenitsa is something Indians can relate to as a worship to the Sun as a life-giver (the pagan meaning attached to it). It is interesting to note that from the Christian belief this marks as the last week of social celebrations, consumption of dairy products before the 40 day Lent begins. Maslenitsa is at the confluence of the deep human values of celebration, forgiveness and letting go and thus particularly significant in meaning.

Relish the beautiful description of the Russian festival Maslenitsa in its activities, the delicacies and the historical background in the simple and beautiful words of Ms. Natalia.

Maslenitsa

The tradition of Maslenitsa dates back to pagan times, when Russian folk would bid farewell to winter and welcome spring. This holiday combines pagan and Christian beliefs of the Russian people. On the pagan side, Maslenitsa marked the welcoming of spring, and was all about the enlivening of nature and bounty of sunny warmth. On the Christian side, Maslenitsa was the last week before the onset of Lent (fasting which precedes Easter), giving the last chance to bask in worldly delights.

The name of the holiday, Maslenitsa (derived from maslo, which means butter or oil in Russian) owes its existence to the tradition of baking pancakes (or blini, in Russian). They are essential to the celebration of Maslenitsa. Hot, round, and golden pancakes embody the sun’s grace and might, helping to warm up the frozen earth. In old days pancakes were cooked from buckwheat flour, and it gave them a red color, making the significance even more evident. At Maslenitsa pancakes are cooked in very large quantities to be used in almost every ritual, they are given to friends and family all through the week. Pancakes are served with caviar , mushrooms, jam, sour cream, and of course, lots of butter.

During this holiday people are involved in many activities. Children and grown-ups assemble a Maslenitsa doll out of straw and old woman’s clothes. They place it on a pole and go dancing around it. The climax of the holiday week is burning the effigy, which takes place on Sunday, the Forgiveness Day. After it has turned to ashes, young people would walk over the fire, marking the end of the Maslenitsa festivities.

By Natalia Vardhan
School Teacher, Sumerlya, Russia

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J. Vaidhinathan
J. Vaidhinathan
August 9, 2022 5:45 am

What a lovely way to expose us to different cultures and its festivals welcoming the spring. To see the sun after a long spell of cold winter, springs much needed happy life in Spring. How Sun plays a prime pivotal part is very well brought so nicely by Ms Natalia Vardhan. Kudos aplenty…enjoyed. Thanks