The week before Lent (post in Russian) is known as Maslenitsa and is one of the most popular traditional Russian celebrations of the year. Running from February 24 to March 01 2020, and known in other cultures as Mardi Gras or Carnival, it gives an opportunity to fatten up for a whole week in preparation for 40 long days and nights of fasting. Though Maslenitsa has been absorbed into Ortodox tradition, it has ancient pagan roots and coincides with the period when the ancient Slavs would celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring (regardless of the fact that it is probably still snowing), hence many pagan activities; such as the burning of a scarecrow representing winter, are key elements of Maslenitsa. You will find mounds of bliny on offer in the city’s many restaurants and café’s throughout this week. Bliny – pancakes, an indispensable part of Russia’s culinary tradition and come stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings limited only by ones imagination. Typical savoury favourites: ham, caviar, cheese, mushrooms, sour cream, pate or boiled eggs and cabbage. On the sweeter side you can have it with jam or varenye (chunky, sweet fruit preserve), honey, tvorog (sweet Russian version of cottage cheese) or condensed milk.
Celebrating Maslenitsa in Moscow
Throughout the week you will find restaurants and cafes across town promoting special pancake menus, while in the city's squares and major parks, such as Kolomenskoe and Lyublino, there will be special traditional Maslenitsa events and concerts as well as piles of pancakes on offer. Actors-animators will be entertaining visitors, there will be bliny stalls, competitions, and prizes. Also come here to listen to the folk music.
Moscow Maslenitsa will take place at Ploshchad Revolutsii, Novy Arbat and Tverskoy Bulvar on February 21 and March 1. There will be pancakes, concerts, as well as cooking battles, fairs and ceremonial scarecrow burningfairs and dances!
Celebrating Maslenitsa in St. Petersburg
Maslenitsa will traditionally take place in a few districts of the city at the same time. So, you have a possibility to choose the festival most closely located to you or even visit all festive places of the city during 2 days (February 28 and March 1). Traditionally, the biggest celebrations will take place at Peter and Paul Fortress and Yelagin Park.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is one of the most beautiful places of the city. On Maslenitsa festive days all the traditions of the holiday will be observed here. Come here on March 1 for dancing, singing folk songs, burning of the scarecrow, and, of course, eating pancakes and drinking mead!
The other great place for Maslenitsa celebrating is Yelagin Island. Pancakes and shashliks, tea from samovars, folk competitions and circus performances will be held here on February 28 and March 1.