Pancake Week (Maslenitsa) is Party Time in Moscow

Pancake Week is almost here. From February 15 to 18, Maslenitsa, the Russian equivalent of Mardi Gras, will turn Moscow’s streets into a carnival of singing, dancing and entertainment. This party attitude in February started back in pagan times and became part of Eastern Orthodoxy when Christianity took over celebrations with a nature worshiping angle. Now, it marks the pre-stages of Lent.

With Russia’s political history (I would guess) Maslenitsa hit a dry spell for about 85 years and passed by without much brouhaha. Not anymore. Since 2002, it’s back in force and some. Central, of course, are pancakes. The Russian version is blini which are served up with either caviar, mushrooms, jam and plenty of butter. Like with any pagan turned Christian holiday there is symbolism behind the food. Pancakes represent the sun and warmth as winter is coming to an end. Each day of the traditional holiday also has a particular meaning. I came across that gives a detailed overview of each day and provides recipes so you can whip up some blini yourself.

Besides eating blini and giving blini to friends and family, fist fighting is also a Maslenitsa activity. This is not a fist fight fest where everyone whams on each other, but some sort of organized happening, meaning if you head to Moscow at this time, I don’t think you’ll have to duck.

Dancing bears, sleigh rides, fireworks and more are also part of the week’s events. For more info, since I’ve really just touched on a few highlights, click here for a more indepth overview of the festival’s history and traditions.