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The end of the winter in Ukraine is associated locally with the Maslyana holiday. More than a thousand years old, Maslyana has its origins in the pagan beliefs of the first Slavs. Legend has it that Maslyana was the daughter of Frost, one of the pagans’ primary gods. She was a big, heavy woman with bright red cheeks and a carefree attitude. At the end of one particularly harsh winter she was spotted in the woods by a crowd of people celebrating the end of the cold weather. She was asked to join in and immediately became the life and soul of the party. Since then the end of the winter holiday has been named for her, Maslyana.
A hot, round pancake is the main Maslyana dish, and apparently symbolizes the sun and mimics ancient pagan religions. By eating a lot of pancakes on Maslyana people were inviting the sun into their lives and welcoming the warmth and sun of spring. Any excuse with these Ukrainians…
Being a pagan holiday, at the beginning of the Christian era Maslyana was forced to find an equivalent in the Christian calendar before being accepted. As such it became part of pre-Lenten festivities, and became a week long holiday. Every day of the week had a special meaning: Monday was kids’ day. Children were seen sliding downhill on their sleds, walking from house to house singing songs, and eating pancakes. They made a huge Maslyana doll from straw and dressed her up. Tuesday was for newlyweds, who made and ate pancakes together, on Wednesday married men got to visit their mothers-in-law (lucky them), where they were treated to a huge dinner. On Thursday the whole village got together and organised Village Games, while on Friday married men cooked pancakes for their mothers-in-law (luckier still). On Saturday married women invited their mothers-in-law over for pancakes, while the Maslyana doll made by children earlier in the week got burnt on a bonfire, symbolizing the end of winter.
The last day of Maslyana is called Forgiveness Sunday, on which you should forgive everyone who has hurt or offended you (including mothers-in-law), and prepare your soul for Lent. This year Forgiveness Sunday will be celebrated on March 9.
The Pyrohovo Museum hosts Maslyana events on Sunday, March 9. Beautiful women dress up like Maslyana and the Maslyana doll will be paraded around the grounds late in the afternoon, before being burnt at 16:00. There will also be horse and sleigh rides, carousels, and varenyki with cheese.
Expocentre on Hlushkova Prospect will open for Maslyana celebrations from March 7-9. There will be a huge fair with folk art, souvenirs and food for sale. There will be folk art group performances, clowns, theatre, kids and adults games, horse rides, concerts, competitions, and art master classes. There will be more than enough pancakes for everyone. The Maslyana doll will be burned on March 9 at 17:00.
Holosiivs’kyi Park offers its own programme for Maslyana on March 9. There are hills for sledging, carousels, a Ferris Wheel, concerts on the open air stage, and a plenty of pancakes with various fillings.