Maslenitsa isn’t just in Russia anymore! Maslenitsa celebration in Melbourne, Australia in 2006.
Despite the world crisis, Moscow is hosting the traditional Maslenitsa Pancake Week Festival in the week preceding the beginning of the Easter Lent, from 23 February to 1 March. The Pancake Week Festival is a big event in the cultural life of Moscow and the whole of Russia. Grigori Antyufeyev, the Chairman of the Moscow Tourism Committee, spoke at a news conference in Moscow on Thursday. “Pancake Week has become a flamboyant national holiday in recent years and is celebrated with as much glitz as New Year. ‘Pancake Week’ in Moscow has been included in international catalogues of festivals and holidays in Europe and the world, and the holiday is attracting ever more interest abroad. On Shrove Sunday, the Sunday before Lent, and this is 1 March this year, London is hosting a Pancake Festival at the initiative of City Mayor Boris Johnson. The event, to be held with the participation of Moscow government officials, presents a good opportunity for the British public to learn more about Russian cultural traditions, which originated more than one thousand years ago”.
Not only Russian Orthodox celebrate at this time, but, so do our Greek co-religionists! A scene from the closing ceremony of the Patras Festival, which is much like our Russian maslenitsa. Yiasou! Opa!
On the programme of the Pancake Week Festival in Moscow are outdoor festivities, folk and pop concerts, theatrical shows, games, rides on horseback, Pancake rituals, and of course, feasts featuring traditional blini or pancakes and other treats from the Russian cuisine. The Pancake Week Festival originated in pre-Christian Russia as a holiday to say good-bye to winter and to welcome in spring. The symbol of the festival was a straw doll that was in the center of festivities first and was burned in a fire after. Blini or pancakes were a necessary ingredient of the holiday, round-shaped, golden-brown, and hot, they symbolised the sun.
During the Pancake Week, which is just before Lent, believers don’t eat meat, but, on Wednesday and Friday they are allowed to drink milk and eat eggs and cheese. The Orthodox Church warns, however, that merry-making should not be the ultimate aim of Pancake Week, although the feast unites people through warmth and hospitality, according to Fr Georgy, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate. Moscow has always been famous for its openness and hospitality. Any passer-by was welcome to have a treat. Pancake Week is a time to see friends, rebuild ruined relations, and forget old grievances. The festive friendly atmosphere encourages unity and accord, which is so crucial at a time of financial and social downturn.
13 February 2009
Voice of Russia World Service