The story of Maslenitsa

The story of Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa, like Holi is deeply rooted in the ancient past. Maslenitsa is an ancient pagan Slavic festival that has survived through more than a thousand years. In many countries, the approach of spring, awakening of nature and hopes for a new rich harvest, symbolized the dawn of the New Year that called for cheer and celebration. The Russian Maslenitsa lasts an entire week, but the most important celebration and the final seeing-off of winter always takes place on Sunday.

After that spring is officially here.

People have always thought that the best way to say goodbye to the old is to consign it to the flames or to the waves. Maslenitsa includes the burning of an effigy. This effigy, from which Maslenitsa derives its name, has a pleasing appearance of a young girl with pink cheeks, a long braid and pretty dress under which is hidden straw. In Russian villages, this straw girl traditionally stood on the highest ground throughout the week of Maslenitsa, observing the villagers boisterous merry making with a smile. And then on Sunday, having all said their goodbyes to the winter, the villagers burned the effigy while singing and dancing.

The carnival-like spirit of letting oneself go cuts across both Maslenitsa and Holi. By changing one’s appearance, according to folk lore, one also changes one’s essence, and this allows one to give oneself over entirely to this festival. In Russia the distinguishing feature of this festival are people in masks dressed up as gypsies, bears and various other characters.

Maslenitsa, like any Russian celebration, cannot do without traditional Russian drinks! The last day of Maslenitsa is Forgiveness Sunday when one traditionally asks all friends and family members for forgiveness for any past offenses, and they usually reply “God will forgive you”.

— Monika

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