From 24th February till 1st March, 2020, Russians celebrate Maslenitsa. Also known as "butter week" or "pancake week", it’s a way to welcome spring by eating tons of bliny (pancakes) and engaging into exuberant festivities. But there is more to it, Maslenitsa has surprising origins, sacred messages and bizarre traditions. Here are six things we bet you didn’t know. 📌Pagan roots of Maslenitsa
Although coming from pagan traditions, Maslenitsa was the only holiday recognized by the Russian Orthodox church. The name Maslenitsa or “butter week” was given to it only in the 17th century, after it had been officially added to the list of church holidays. Before that Christians called the last week before Lent “meatless”, as meat wasn’t allowed by the Orthodox tradition. 📌Pancakes are symbolic
As you might have guessed, Maslenitsa is all about pancakes or blini (they are more like french crepes, rather than fluffy American pancakes). They are freshly made every day and supposedly symbolize the Sun, so by eating pancakes, people consume its warmth and energy. Russians try to eat as many of those as possible, especially before the approaching seven weeks of the Great Lent. 📌What a Bear has to do with it
The holiday used to have a pagan name, “Komoyeditsa”, which has multiple theories about it’s origin. According to one of them, this time of year bears, whom ancient Russians called “kom”, were feeling the spring in the air and waking up from hibernation. Since bears were considered masters of the forest, people brought them pancake offerings, as a way to greet spring. So Komoyeditsa may be interpreted as “feeding bears”.