Shrovetide (Maslenitsa)

Shrovetide (Maslenitsa) is a Russian religious holiday, originated in the pagan days, when it marked a spring-welcoming holiday in anticipation of the warm spell and spring-time renovation. Russian people celebrate it at the end of winter or at the beginning of spring.

The Pagans believed that Spring was a sweet young girl and needed their help to overcome Winter. So they burned the figure of Winter. Pancakes were the necessary ritual of Shrovetide. Round and hot they symbolized the sun, which was getting warmer making the days longer.

Though it was forbidden and forgotten during Soviet time, now the tradition of celebrating Shrovetide is becoming again a merry holiday. It is celebrated during a whole week and so its complete name is butter-week or cheese-week. It is celebrated throughout the whole week marking each day with a special program.

  • Monday – seeing in, the Shrovetide straw doll is dressed;
  • Tuesday – making advances, the guys invite the girls to take a slide downhill so that they can choose a match;
  • Wednesday – delicacies, mothers-in-law invite their sons-in-law for a treat;
  • Thursday –  big Thursday,
  • Friday – mother-in-law’s evening, when it was the sons-in-law’s turn to treat their mothers-in-law to pancakes;
  • Saturday – daughter-in-law’s gathering for a chat and they invite all relatives to demonstrate their culinary skills
  • Sunday – seeing off, Sunday of forgiveness. The day when people ask forgiveness of one another for earlier hurts, burn the Shrovetide doll and scatter the ashes for a profuse harvest.

This week is followed by Fast. That’s why people want to eat and drink at pleasure. The traditional dish is pancakes with different fillings such as jam, butter, meat, cottage-cheese (tvorog) and even caviar.