How to celebrate Maslenitsa: A step-by-step guide (PHOTOS)

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS, Pixabay
Here’s how to make the most of Maslenitsa, including when to look for love, how to get on your mother-in-law’s good side and what to do to ensure a warm summer.

Maslenitsa is a Russian folk holiday. It’s also lots of fun. For a whole week, people eat pancakes, visit family and bid farewell to winter. In pagan times, Maslenitsa was celebrated on the day of the Spring Equinox (March 22), but with the advent of Christianity, it turned into a kind of preparation for Great Lent. In 2019, it will take place on March 4-10. Here is a practical guide for how to make the most of the week. 

Preparing for Pancake Week

Before Pancake Week, it is considered good form to get your home in order, throw away old and broken things, tidy up, stock up on pancake ingredients for the week ahead. You should also gather presents for your family. 

Monday is for making pancakes

Pancakes symbolize the sun in Russian cuisine. Popular belief has it that the more pancakes you make, the better the weather and more abundant the harvest will be that year.

Traditionally, meat was off limits during Pancake Week, but fish and dairy products were very much in. Therefore, the most popular fillings for pancakes were cottage cheese, sour cream, jam, caviar and butter. This tradition has carried on into the present day, and every family usually has their own trademark recipe. Tradition also prescribes that you give the first pancake to somebody in need and ask them to remember your dead.

On Monday, a straw effigy of winter is dressed in rags and put up on the highest hill, around which celebrations will take place.

Tuesday is for looking for love

If you are still single, this day is for you. Forget your Tinder and get outside to spend time with other people. On Shrove Tuesday, young people go sledding, go for walks and generally take part in fun winter activities. Young bachelors flirt  and try to find a bride, while women show off their beauty and domestic skills.

Young people can treat each other to pancakes, but the main thing is to have fun! They say that those who do not have fun during Maslenitsa will spend the whole year in sadness and gloom, and there is no reason not to believe this. 

Wednesday is for visiting your mother-in-law

On Wednesday during Pancake Week, mothers-in-law treat their sons-in-law to homemade pancakes. The more food on the table, the more the mother-in-law approves of her daughter's choice for a husband. If you are not yet married, this is a good opportunity to meet each other's parents. In general, many Maslenitsa traditions are aimed at encouraging young people to couple up and get married, the sooner the better.

If you are invited to a Maslenitsa meal, it is best not to arrive empty-handed. You can bring something for the house, such as dishes, bedspreads or some pastries.

Thursday is for having fun!

On this day, people bake buns in the shape of birds that are meant to summon spring. This day marks the start of Broad Maslenitsa, which lasts until Sunday.

On Thursday, the celebrations last from morning until evening. They include circle dances, fairs and games. Some traditional Maslenitsa games, such as fistfights and gang brawls, would seem rather barbaric today, but fortunately these have fallen out of fashion. 

Friday is for inviting your parents over

Remember how Wednesday was for mothers-in-law to treat their sons-in-law? Well, on Friday the mother-in-law returns on a visit, this time bringing her friends along. The son-in-law is expected to set the table for his wife's mother to demonstrate that her daughter has a husband who can handle household chores. Particularly savvy parents-in-law would sometimes supply their sons-in-law with all the supplies and ingredients in advance just in case. 

Saturday is for inviting your husband's sister over

Saturday is usually spent inviting your sister-in-law over to visit or just spending time with relatives and friends in general. On this day, people treat each other to delicious pastries and exchange small gifts. 

Sunday is for asking for forgiveness

Sunday during Pancake Week is called Forgiveness Sunday and is a day for asking forgiveness from your friends and family for any ways you might have offended or hurt them. In the morning, people go to the banya to wash away their sins. They also visit cemeteries to pay respect to their dead ones, oftentimes leaving some pancakes for them. In the evening, they burn an effigy of Maslenitsa to symbolize winter giving way to spring. 

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