My family back in Ukraine is celebrating Maslenitsa at the moment – it’s a week-long festival celebrating the arrival of spring. Maslenitsa is celebrated not only in Ukraine, but in all eastern Slavic countries. Most of our festivals represent intertwined Christian and Pagan traditions, and this one is no exception.
In Christian Orthodox tradition, it’s the last week before Great Fast – two months without meat, fish, milk and eggs.
According to Slavic Myphology, Maslenitsa symbolizes the end of winter.
Pancakes (or bliny is Russian) are the most popular food during this week, and their round shape and yellow color is meant to praise the sun. You can put a thin layer of any spread over the pancakes – honey, jam, cottage cheese and even caviar, and then fold them the way you can see on the picture. (These pancakes were made by my old school friend, by the way :))
As for the Maslenitsa activities, originally they included all sorts of fun things to do – sledging and snowball fighting just to name a couple. But in our region it varies from winter to winter – sometimes we have snow even in March, but sometimes we hardly have any snow throughout all the winder months. If you look at the painting of Leonid Solomatkin, you’ll have a clear idea of what these activities used to be in the 19th century.
The last day of Maslenitsa is “Forgiveness Sunday” and it conveys the idea of the upcoming Great Fast – the wish for God’s forgiveness. This day you’re suppose to forgive everyone you’ve had any sort of disagreement with and to ask for their forgiveness in return.
Besides, on Sunday evening they burn “Lady Maslenitsa” – a figure made of straw thus inviting spring to come. This is what I meant talking about similarity of customs between this festival and Holi celebration in India.
Anyway, these days the main focus of Maslenitsa is on pancakes – they are extremely delicious:) No wonder so many expats are haunted by desire of mouth watering homemade Slavic pancakes no matter where they live.
So, if you’d like to experience a bit of Slavic culture, here is the recipe:
4 cups of milk
salt to taste
2 tablespoonful of sugar
just a tiny bit of baking soda
4 cups f wheat flour
oil (3 table in the mixture) and for frying as required
1 cup of hot water
1.Then you need to mix your milk and eggs, beating them together thoroughly. Add salt, sugar and baking soda.
2.Then add the flour to the mixture and stir it well. Pour in three tablespoons of oil and a cup of hot water. Then put your vessel aside and forget about it for a quarter of an hour or so.
3.Then heat the frying pan on the fire and pour a bit of oil. Fill your ladle with the pancake mixture and pour it into the frying pan. Move the frying pan in a circular motion so that the mixture would cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer.
4.When the edges of your pancake turns golden brown, turn it over. After it’s done, put it on a dry plate. Continue frying, adding more oil when needed. From this recipe you’ll get around 30 pancakes. Feel free to put any spread you like on top of each and fold them.
To be honest, I’m not such a dedicated cook to make pancakes on a regular basis. The fact that they keep disappearing from the plate while you’re still frying the remaining ones is rather disheartening:) But once a year, for Maslenitsa, it’s ok.