There are many traditional Russian festivals the history of which is riddled with special Slavic culture. One of them is the well-known Maslenitsa. Merry folk festivities last one week, and each day has its own tradition. In 2013 the holiday will last from March 11 to March 17.
According to the old legend, everyone must have fun these days, so that one has the strength to endure the Lent with dignity. The story goes that if you do not celebrate Maslenitsa you will be plagued with failures and difficulties during the next year. We inherited this bright family holiday as a legacy from our Slavs ancestors. Initially its roots were associated with paganism, but the tradition of celebrating the leave of dull winter routine did not disappear even after the adoption of Christianity in Ancient Russia.
Maslenitsa also preserved some of the characters that connect the Russian people with their past. A striking example can be called the main dish on the table this week. Pancakes are of round shape and golden colour which represents the sun and the long-awaited arrival of spring.
You can celebrate Maslenitsa not only at home. Maslenitsa is essentially a celebration of the strengthening of family ties and friendly relations. There is a pleasant tradition to visit each other's homes on these days, treat each other with homemade pancakes and other tasty presents. The traditional ending of Maslenitsa is the ritual burning of the effigy dressed in women's clothes symbolizing the winter. Although earlier this was always men`s clothes, and it was burned alongside with the housewares in which the pancakes were baked. The spring popularly has always been the embodiment of something new. Therefore, unnecessary things, trash and junk, according to the tradition, were burnt in large fires at the end of Maslenitsa, so that the nice new clothes and things could take their place.
Masked people are always to be met on the streets – they are dressed in funny costumes of young people gathering in noisy companies. They usually knocked at the doors of houses and asked for treats or money. If the owner of the house was greedy the maskers could arrange a little prank. The masked also rode the newly-weds in the sleds, but if their gifts were poor the masked could even throw the couple in the snow.
Maslenitsa ends with Forgiveness Sunday. According to the existing tradition, people ask all their friends and relatives for forgiveness on this day, and these usually respond: "God will forgive you".
Author: Anna Dorozhkina