February 12th through February 18th is a celebration of maslenniza. Celebration dates change every year, thus 12th to 18th of February is for 2018. Celebration is a week-long and it starts 56 days prior to Orthodox Easter (48 days of Easter lent and 7 days of maslenniza celebration).
Nowadays not many people, even locals, understand origins, history and meaning of maslenniza. Originally a pagan holiday, maslenniza is one of a few ancient cultural artifacts survived Christian and soviet eras of Russian history. Maslenniza is actually well blended into the Orthodox Church calendar and accepted as a traditional holiday (but not religious therefore not celebrated officially by church).
Maslenniza is a celebration of welcoming spring and saying goodbye to winter. Main symbol of maslenniza, for which it known the most, is a pancake (blin). Blin represents the sun, because of its roundish shape and yellowish color. In pagan times, before Christianity people worshiped Yarilo, the god of sun. Pancakes, blini were the symbol of Yarilo. It is very much simplified meaning of maslenniza and its symbol, but enough for understanding the concept.
Maslenniza is a week-long holiday, starting on Monday and running until Sunday. Each of seven maslenniza days has its own name, significance and specific traditional celebration activities of the day. Nowadays no one really observes each day of maslenniza in a traditional way. Probably the most known day of maslenniza week is Sunday, or so called “forgiven Sunday”. On “forgiven Sunday” people ask their friends, relatives and acquaintances for forgiveness for whatever wrong they might have done. On Sunday, as a part of celebration, there is ritual of burning straw dummy, which is a culmination and the end of maslenniza.
For people following Orthodox calendar and obeying all church traditions and requirements maslenniza if a last week to eat non-lenten food. Monday after maslenniza is over great lent starts that continues until Easter.
In Moscow as well as in other cities there will be lots of public holiday events (especially on weekend of maslenniza week). Most businesses and public organizations organize celebration of maslenniza in their own way. Restaurants and cafes put pancakes on the menu if normally they don’t serve them. There will be special events in Moscow parks, downtown pedestrian areas, squares. For expats and their families maslenniza celebration is a good chance to go out and have fun, learn a bit of Russian culture.
If you wanna stay inside, baking pancakes at home can be a fun family activity, especially if you have kids. Traditional Russian pancakes must be very thin, larger in size, with little holes, which look like a needlelace. There are many different recipes of pancakes and each household has its own recipe. Look up on the internet or ask Russians about a recipe they use.
Kitty wants a pancake too.