Maslenitsa, also known as Butter Week, Pancake week, or Cheesefare Week, is a Russian religious and folk holiday. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun festival, celebrating the imminent end of the winter.
most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny (Russian pancakes),
popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made
from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition: butter,
eggs, and milk.
Maslenitsa also includes masquerades, snowball
fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. In some
regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity: one day
for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their
parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. The mascot
of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady
Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.
As the culmination of the
celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her
finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blintzes are
also thrown on the fire, and Lady Maslenitsa's ashes are buried in the
snow (to "fertilize the crops").