Pancake Week or Maslenitsa

Right now Russians are celebrating the oldest Russian holiday called MASLENITSA |  МАСЛЕНИЦА (from maslo ‘butter’). This ancient Slavic pagan holiday survived through the centuries and is still widely celebrated. 

Maslenitsa celebrates the end of the long dull winter and welcomes Spring! 

For centuries the church was trying to ban Maslenitsa but in the XVII century the church was only able to shorten the period of the celebration from two weeks to seven days. As a result, the church incorporated Maslenitsa into its’ tradition and this holiday became a symbolic one week celebration before a very strict Christian Orthodox Lent preceding Easter. During Lent, fasting excludes meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Also, any kind of entertainment such as partying and secular music is considered a distraction from praying and other spiritual practices. In this way Maslenitsa is the last chance to indulge yourself with delicious meals. 

And yes, we make and enjoy pancakes the entire week! 

Why pancakes? Блины (blini), in Russian.

Well, there are two symbols in one here: 

• the round shaped hot and golden pancakes symbolize round hot Sun 

• the circle is a sacred figure in many cultures including Russia. The circle protects people from evil spirits. For example, dancing the round dance (Russian ‘khorovod’ round dance) 

During the entire week pancakes are made in enormous quantities. Pancakes are shared with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Russians serve pancakes with butter, caviar, mushrooms, cabbage, meat, sour cream or jam, honey, marmalade and fruit. 

There are different kinds of pancakes: crepe-style, fluffy ones, yeast batter, no-yeast, buckwheat flour, wheat flour, kefir-based, buttermilk, only water, only milk, adding hot water to the milk, and so on. 

For kefir-based pancakes recipe click here

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