March 20, 2019
Russian Maslenitsa Celebration
On Monday, March 4, 2019, students from the Russian courses gathered to celebrate Russia’s ancient and beloved festival of Maslenitsa.
After dark and cold winter days, March has brought not only a daylight-saving time change, but also Maslenitsa (Butter Week), a celebration associated with saying farewell to winter with seven days of outdoor festivities during which people consume a lot of bliny–crepe-like golden pancakes, generously smeared with butter and served with sour cream. The name of the festival comes from the Russian word maslo (butter; oil), in reference to the rich foods consumed during the week before the beginning of the Great Lent leading to Easter. Maslenitsa is also famous for its outdoor fun such as snowball fights and sleigh rides, best pancake contests and a circle dance around the straw Maslenitsa effigy.
The students had a wonderful opportunity not only to eat but also to make pancakes. Several volunteers bravely rolled up their sleeves to measure and mix the ingredients; it was amazing how skillfully they poured the batter on the hot griddle and flipped the pancakes eagerly awaited by their classmates. Although these were not the traditional bliny - the result of a complicated and long preparation involving yeast, it didn’t take away from the fun. Everyone could take up the culinary challenge and those who did looked very happy to try their hands at cooking. Since we held a similar event last year, there are some real pancake-making pros in the program!
The delicious pancakes were served with butter and sour cream, topped by smoked salmon, salmon caviar, as well as Russian jams, according to the established tradition. And all these delicacies were accompanied by traditional drinks, such as kvas (a fermented soft drink made with rye bread), birch juice and, of course, hot tea. Another traditional attribute of the festivities is sushki necklaces. Sushki look like mini-bagels, but are hard and dry. In the past merchants travelling through the vast countryside would put them on a string and hang them around their necks to be taken off and eaten as snacks at tea time.
The lively event was a great success. The students were introduced to the rich Russian traditions of celebrating through the slide show of the paintings by Russian masters on the subject of Maslenitsa. They had an excellent opportunity to practice their language skills during the two hours the event lasted, actively communicating with one another, going over the recipes in Russian and just relaxing in the company of their peers and professors. We hope that such enjoyable and at the same time educational cultural events will continue in the future.