Maslenitsa is a pagan festival at the end of the winter. It was celebrated by the ancient Slavs. After the arrival of Christianity in Russia an attempt was made to adopt the festival. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent (it is calculated according to the Lunar calendar).Maslenitsa is a very beautiful, joyful and colorful holiday. It is celebrated, as mentioned above, during the whole week – from Monday through Sunday, reaching its culmination on the weekend, when most street parties and rituals take place.
Russians symbolically bid farewell to the winter and celebrate the coming of the spring. Street parties are organized across towns and villages. All forms of entertainment have traditional old Russian flavor: people engage in circle-dancing, participate in young men’s merry-making (fist fights, wide-scale pitched fights (most often - prearranged); folk songs and couplets singing to summon the spring; snow fortress building; sleigh riding, skating and sledding.
The thing to do is to celebrate this holiday in the cities of the Golden Ring (Suzdal, Vladimir and others) –the celebration is more authentic there and has the proper scale and joy. Folk dancers and musical groups are invited. People dress up in traditional costumes, engage in circle dancing, summon the sun and the spring, always eat pancakes (the symbol of the sun) and always burn an effigy symbolizing the outgoing harsh winter during this festive week.
In the distant past immoderate consumption of pancakes and other foodstuffs (as well as popular “who can eat the most food” contests at fairs) resulted in numerous obituaries on the first Monday of Great Lent, beginning pretty much in the same way: “died in the Maslenitsa week from overeating pancakes ”… followed by the list of unfortunate gluttons. Obviously, today the situation has improved, nobody eats himself to death. The worst thing that can happen to an immoderate eater is having to take a couple of digestion pills and experiencing a few hours of unpleasantness.
So, if you really want to understand the mysterious Russian soul and find out something about the traditions and rituals, the best time to travel to Russia is during the Maslenitsa celebration. What can be better than taking part in street parties, and enjoying pancakes with caviar and mead?