Maslenitsa at VSUES/Масленица во ВГУЕСе
Ул. Гоголя, д. 41 (VSUES dorms)
Dates change each year
Free and open to VSUES students, faculty and staff
If you happen to be in Russia during the spring, one of the highlights of the season (along with the melting ice and ubiquitous mud) is the celebration of Масленица (Maslenitsa). Eight weeks before Easter, this week-long holiday not only heralds the beginning of spring, but also signals the beginning of the Great Fast (Великий Пост; Velikii Post) on the Orthodox calendar. As is the case with many an Orthodox celebration, Масленица was originally an ancient Slavic tradition, and once the start of the new year. To symbolize the return of the sun and the bountiful harvest that it will hopefully provide, all week long блины (bliny; crepes/pancakes) are eaten by the mountain-ful, complete with such scrumptious fillings as jam (варенье; varen’ye), honey, sweetened condensed milk (сгущенное молоко; sgushchennoye moloko) and sour cream, or, just as often, plain but slathered with butter. Relatives call upon each other regularly, and there are even specific days allotted for the visiting of certain loved ones (e.g. Wednesday son-in-laws are treated to блины at their mother-in-law’s). Furthermore, the week is traditionally filled with fun and games, such as sleigh-riding, the building of snow cities, fist fights, dancing, puppet shows and clown performances.
In short, it’s a really fun time of year! And just because many students are far from home, doesn’t mean that we here at VSUES didn’t celebrate to the best of our ability! Due to the rigors of the school week, the marking of Масленица was limited to one big blowout party on Friday, March 15. Everyone got started early in the morning, cooking up блины. Each floor of the dormitories made their own versions, and let me tell you, there were some really tasty takes on the traditional recipe! I, of course, was in the thick of the action, and contributed some of my own cooking expertise to the mix. After everything was prepared, the cooks joined the main party outside on what is a basketball court during the rest of the year, but which this day had been transformed into a fairground! There, we sampled literal piles of блины with every filling imaginable, indulged in piping hot cups of tea and watched the Масленица entertainments. Some of these had been modified from their traditional forms, such as the fistfights (transformed into pillow fights), but the dancing and clown performances, for example, remained unchanged. All in all, the day was uncharacteristically warm, spirits were high, the food was abundant and excellent, and the entertainments were jolly good fun. It was certainly a banner day at VSUES, and hopefully the harbinger of a wonderful spring to come!