Russian Maslenitsa: How, Why and Where it is celebrated?

Russian Maslenitsa: How, Why and Where it is celebrated?
21 February 2015

Maslenitsa: How, Why and Where it is celebrated?

On the 21 and 22 of February take place the main celebrations of Russian Maslenitsa (Масленица). Also known as Shrovetide or Pancakes Week, this is a Slavic religious celebration of pagan origins, which combines two traditions. The pagan side celebrates the welcoming of spring and the awakening of nature, and in the Christian tradition this is the week before Lent that leads us up to Easter.

The name Масленица come from масло (maslo, butter) and the traditional dish of this time is блины (bliny) Russian pancakes. Their round shape has always been considered sacred and related to the sun, the circle of life and therefore we find it in many decorations and in the traditional хоровод (khorovod, round dance). During Malsenitsa bliny are cooked in large quantities and you can find them in every restaurant, café or столовая (stolovaya). In the past they ate them simply с маслом (s maslom, with butter), but nowadays some of the most popular are с икрой (s ikroi) (for the recipe click here) с творогом (s tvorogom), с вареньем (s vareniem), со сметаной (so smetanoi).

Maslenitsa consists of three week celebrations: всеядная неделя (vseyadnaya nedelya) when there are no food restrictions, рябая неделя (ryabaya nedelya) with some fasting days, and then Maslenitsa, when only dairy products are allowed. According to the tradition, everyday of Malsenitsa has a theme: on Monday, Встреча (Vstrecha), the welcoming day, Чучело (Chuchelo), the Russian Maslenitsa doll, is made out of straw and old cloths. On Tuesday, Заигрыш (Zaigrysh), the fun part starts and many entertainments and improvised performances take place. Лакомка (Lakomka), on Wednesday, it’s the day when people should eat, especially bliny as much as they please. On Thursday, Разгул (Razgul), starts Широкая Масленица (Shirokaya Maslenitsa); the “First fight” take place to commemorate Russian military history. During Тещины вечера (Teshiny vechera), on Friday, mothers-in-law are invited for a dinner party by their sons-in-law, while on Saturday, Золовкины посиделки (Zolovkiny posidelki), young wives invite their sisters-in-law. Eventually Sunday, Проводы, Прощеный день (Provody, Proshenyi den), on this day people ask for forgiveness and Чучело is burn to ashes.

During Lent people are not allowed to eat meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Besides parties, dancing and activities that draw away attention from the spiritual life are prohibited. For these reasons on Maslenitsa people usually have party, pay visit to relatives, dance, sing, eat and have fun. They used to say that if someone doesn’t have as much fun as they could during this time they are going to end up lonely and miserable. So let’s go and say farewell to winter and pains, unresolved issues and grudge from the past year and celebrate spring and new life!


Do you have plans for Maslenitsa? Check out what’s going on this weekend in Saint Petersburg and Moscow! Here’s some suggestions for you!

Saint Petersburg

On February 21, 22

ЦПКиО им. С.М. Кирова (Krilov Central Park of Culture and Leisure)

Парк культуры и отдыха им. И. В. Бабушкина (Babushkin Park of Culture and Leisure)

On February 22

Московский парк Победы (Moskovskiy park Pobedy)

Летный сад Русского музея (Summer Garden)

Парк Екатерингоф (Park Ekaterinhof)


On February 21,22

ГУМ-Ярмарка и ГУМ-Каток (Gum-yarmarka Gum-katok) 

ЦПКиО им. Горького (Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure)

Парк «Сокольники» (Park Sokolniki)

Кремль в Измайлово (Kremlin in Izmailovo)



This post was brought to you by Jessica, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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