Shrovetide (Maslenitsa)


Shrovetide (Maslenitsa)

***** Location: Russia
***** Season: Spring
***** Category: Observance


Maslenitsa, or Shrovetide, which came from the pagan times, and is still loved and spread across the whole country, and is willingly celebrated. It is a very ancient tradition that has come down to us from many centuries back when people prayed to trees and the wind, the rain and sun. It is a celebration of happiness that winter has gone and soon it will be warm. According to tradition, those who refuse to celebrate Maslenitsa will live "with bad luck and end worse."

Olga Hooper


"07 Mar 2005 (Every year, the week before Orthodox Lent starts)
Founded on one of Russia's oldest folk traditions - celebrating theon-coming spring at the end of winter - but also incorporating theChristian tradition of pancakes in advance of Lent, the Maslenitsa(blini or pancake) Festival returns to Moscow's calendar. In 2002 thetradition was refounded, having last been held in Tsarist Russia in 1917.

The festival, which dates back to pagan times, is a week-long carnival which includes riding traditional troikas through the snow-filled streets, parades of Russian fairytale characters, open-air theatre, dancing, fireworks and folk songs. Festivities culminate in the torching of the scarecrow of winter, marking the end of the harshseason and welcoming the long-awaited spring.

The centrepiece to the festival is the Blini pancake - symbolising the sun (round, golden and warm) - eaten with sour cream and caviaror honey and jam and washed down with plenty of vodka. As part of the week's events, there is a contest to create the world's largest Blini, aiming to put the festival into the Guinness Book of Records.

A festival that evokes the world of both Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Petrushka (happening, as that ballet does, at the Shrovetide Fair), each day - from "The Greeting" of the first day to the "Forgiveness Sunday" of the last - has a specific theme: Tuesday -Popular Games; Wednesday - The Sweet Tooth's Day; Thursday - The Lavish Day; Friday - Good Mothers' Evenings and Saturday - Good Daughters' Parties.

Orthodox Lent, otherwise known as "The Great Fast", starts on the following day..."


There is a very interesting article of an American journalist who once participated in the last day celebration of Maslenitsa in Siberian city Irkutsk (below, I pasted some excerpts from it):

"Festival Type(s): Carnival, Street Parade, Party

The Russian Orthodox calendar includes four Lent-like fasts. The one coming before Easter is called the "Great Fast." Like the Catholic tradition, Russian Orthodoxy respects the need to enjoy oneself before a month of self-denial. In Russian, this week-long festival is called Maslenitsa. The "main" day of Maslenitsa is the last one,

The two signature games of Maslenitsa are the pole-climb and the storming of the snow fort. The pole climb involves a huge smooth wooden pole (maybe 40 or 50 feet high) which men wearing only their underwear attempt to scale. I should point out that February in Irkutsk is cold (-10 to -20 Celsius) and windy. Several prizes are strung up at the top of the pole, so anyone who makes it to the top selects a prize and comes back down (as quickly as possible!).

The snow fort consisted of a tall wall (7-8 feet high) with a small tower; both made igloo-style with blocks of snow and ice. While the stormers tried to scale it, a small group of defenders pushed the attackers off the wall.

By tradition, you must eat blini (Russian pancakes). Other games, wrestling, and blini-eating contests...

There was also the burning of the winter in effigy. The "maslenitsa" itself is a doll that symbolizes winter, as well as your sins of the previous year. You can buy little straw dolls and burn them yourself, but the organizers of the festival also have a life-sized doll for the main event. We marched behind the maslenitsa to the bonfire, where, after a great deal of speech-giving, she was duly burnt to a crisp, officially ending the festivities and the winter both "



More Links about this Event

Worldwide use

Shrove Tuesday is, in my experience, very far from worldwide, so perhaps we can try and find those countries where it is known and then look at what happens there -- in Ireland, Pancake Tuesday, in Britain (or is it just England perhaps?) PancakeDay, in Germany Altweiberfastnacht, in Binche (Belgium) the parade of the Gilles with its national and international following, in Kenya a totally normal non-kigo Tuesday which is followed by Ash Wednesday, deserving a (presumably worldwide?) listing in its own right.

Isabelle Prondzynski

Things found on the way


seeing-off of winter
with pancakes
cheerful festival

Shared by Gennady Nov
Joys of Japan, February 2012

Related words

***** Shrove Tuesday

Ireland knows "Pancake Tuesday", or "Shrove Tuesday" which is amostly family-based or community-based festivity. We used to have the most delicious pancakes at school!http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/ShroveTues.html

Souffleeis rising.
The children come through the door.Slam!
Have a pancake.

Isabelle Prondzynski


It refers to having been to confession, 'shriven' of sin, before lent begins.

shrove tuesday
we eat pancakes

susan delphine delaney


the passover

* Potato Latkes, the classic Jewish potato pancake.



Butter Week
folk holiday
with pancakes

- Shared by Gennady Nov -
Haiku Culture Magazine, 2013


. WKD : Christian Celebrations in Japanese Kigo .

. - - - Russia Saijiki - Russland - - - .




Anonymous said...

Very seasonal link :


Enjoy the page of the traditional Olney Pancake Race!

Isabelle Prondzynski

Anonymous said...

Some more great links, courtesy of the BBC :



Read all about pancake traditions and Christian Shrove Tuesday tradtitions -- as well as the mix between the two!

Isabelle Prondzynski

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