Maslenitsa: Russia’s taste-fest
Posted by Kris Roman on March 2, 2009
The tradition of Maslenitsa dates back to pagan times, when Russian folk would bid farewell to winter and welcome spring.
On the pagan side, Maslenitsa was celebrated on the vernal equinox day. It marked the welcoming of spring, and was all about the enlivening of nature and bounty of sunny warmth.
On the Christian side, Maslenitsa was the last week before the onset of Lent (fasting which precedes Easter), giving the last chance to bask in worldly delights. Once Lent itself begins, a strictly kept fast excludes meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Furthermore, parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life are also strictly prohibited.
In the eyes of the church Maslenitsa is not just a week of merrymaking, but a whole step-by-step procedure to prepare oneself for a long and exhausting fasting, which, if observed properly, may be a real challenge.