This morning when I woke up a bunch of my roommate’s boyfriend’s friends showed up at our flat to celebrate Maslenitsa (Масленица) with us. The immediately began preparing the batter to cook blinis (блины), Russian pancakes which are more like crepes than American style pancakes.
I had mistakenly thought that Maslenitsa was just one day but soon learned that it is a whole week and has been going on since 23 February.. However it is the last day that it seems most people celebrate by cooking blinis. I’d previously celebrated this day at university where our Russian Club would get together, make blinis and then later burn the straw woman who is an effigy of winter in order to welcome spring.
What I was really surprised by were how interested in celebrating it the friends who came over were. They were all men but they knew how to expertly prepare blinis and regaled us with all the various traditions. They were also quite young, university aged guys and yet they still adhered to this tradition. This is one thing that has continually surprised me: young people’s awareness of and desire to uphold traditions on their own or with their friends. When I was at university the only real holiday that we really celebrated was St. Patrick’s Day. Of course university students will use any excuse to have a party and drink alcohol so this isn’t especially surprising. But there have been several holidays so far that young Russians seem compelled to celebrate of their own accord, without pressure from their family or anyone else. In fact, they seem to genuinely enjoy doing this. Of course alcohol and burning something were involved in this holiday so that may have had something to do with it. But overall I’ve observed that young Russians are more inclined to hold onto traditional holidays and enjoy celebrating them.
After cooking hundreds of blinis and eating them with butter, smetana and jam, we took a break and then met up again to go to the forest to burn winter. Although Lady Maslenitsa is usually made of straw, we didn’t have any straw and first conducted one out of sticks, old clothes and Styrofoam.
Then, later some sticks were found, old clothes stuffed with newspaper and a better version was constructed. (The original is on the left, the second attempt is on the right.) After that we went to the woods where she was doused with gasoline and lit on fire. After that we ate more blinis, drank shots of vodka and then had a snowball fight out on a frozen lake nearby. Several hours later everyone was cold and tired so we made our way home. Here’s hoping our ritual worked and we have some warm weather soon!