Russian equivalent of Mardi Gras or something more ancient than the Slavic tribes themselves?
Week of spiritual revival that coincides with the onset of Spring or a pagan feast that’s not a feast but rather the beginning of the longest and strictest lent of the year?
This summary and compilation of myths and truths about Maslenitsa might help you find your own interpretation of what Maslenitsa can symbolize for you.
As an expert for KM.ru asserts, the roots of the feast go down in history and precede the formation of Slavic tribes, pre-dating the Mongol invasions and the Viking raids. The effigy burnt that was composed of hay, perhaps some wood, and later when Russia started centralizing – of old used things from previous years – symbolized the winter that had to leave and make room for Spring. Effigy would be dressed in woman’s clothing and would be the culmination of the week. Again, at the festivities more bliny would be eaten, prepared in round cast iron or metal pans over the open fire.
Maslenitsa is not any particular day – it is an entire week of consequential events – among which is the Wednesday tradition of going over to the Mother-in law’s house for some bliny.
Bliny! A meal in itself.
Why bliny? Because ever since the ancient times this food is a symbol of the sun; tradition suggests that you eat them while they are warm to further establish arrival of the sunny times – of the Spring beginning its reign on Earth.
Sunday of he Maslenitsa week is the “forgiving Sunday” – on this day it is suggested that you ask all those you might have wronged their forgiveness; this tradition came in with the baptism of Rus’ into the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity and is more related to spiritual “Spring cleaning” and stepping into the great lent with a clear conscience and a light heart.
The closest equivalent to this festivity is the tradition of the Mardi Gras carnival that precedes the great lent in Catholicism. “Carnival” is a word derived form “carne” – or meat, With the Tuesday being the day when great feasts happened.
In both Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy the week for these festivities is determined by counting back from the date of the Easter – which is established by the lunar calendar; Russian Easter and Western Easter coincide sometimes.
This year the Greek Easter Sunday is on the 4th of April.