During this holiday they bake pirozhki, kalachi and suchlike cakes using butter and eggs, invite guests, drink honey, beer, vodka till falling asleep and losing all senses. The temper of Moscow people is close to that of Italians. Maslenitsa reminds me of an Italian carnival which takes place approximately during the same period and looks similar.
Schleussinger G. А.
Traditionally, at the end of February the beginning of March one week before Great Lent, Moscow celebrates Maslenitsa, Cheesefare Week, Pancake Week, a week of feasts and folk festivals. Maslenitsa or Butter Week is the longest and one of the merriest holidays, though it is only indicated in the Orthodox calendar. The holiday takes its roots in pagan times and symbolizes the end of winter. In the old days at the end of the festival a straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa was put to the flames of a bonfire as the way to say farewell to the severity of cold weather, melancholy of dark days and sorrow of overcast sky.
Hot, gold colored, emanating the heat of the oven fire and topped by melting butter bliny (Russian pancakes) ordinary, thick, red, made with cheese, potatoes, nuts, Turkish, Hungarian, Jewish are the symbol of sun and fertility. With caviar, butter, herring and salmon, jam, honey, sour cream, potatoes, apples, condensed milk, cheese and cream cheese, they are the main dish of Maslenitsa feast. They are baked everywhere and by everyone: in each house, café, restaurant, in the streets in special ovens and on braziers. Even people travelling by trains during the holiday week can order a dish of authentic Russian bliny and not only one dish but as much and as often as they like.*
The last day of this joyful, exuberant week is called Forgiveness Sunday. Traditionally on the eve of Great Lent Slavic people were performing a ceremony of the greatest humility. The ritual is simple it consists of asking relatives and friends for forgiveness.
The most exuberant festival takes place on Sunday near Vasilyevski Spusk. And in 2005 the festival was officially declared to be the main uniting Maslenitsa festival of Russia.
However, it is possible to taste Russian bliny and to take part in Russian festival also in other parts of Moscow: in Izmaylovsky Park, in Sokolniki Park, in All-Russia Exhibition Center (VVC), in Tsaritsino Park, Kolomenskoe Park, Gorky Park, Kuzminki and Lyublino.
Maslenitsa Festival, organized each year near Vasilyevski Spusk of Red Square, is very popular not only among Moscow citizens but also among foreign tourists. During the past several years many tourist companies of Moscow working with foreigners have been actively bringing foreign tourists to Russia not only to show them the sights and historical monuments of our city but to let them visit Maslenitsa Festival.
Surprisingly the celebration of Pascha in Moscow has the longest and continuous tradition which has never been interrupted, even during the Soviet time. Though, of course, due to the Soviet ideology the sequence of festival events and their general entourage had to be changed. Thus a new tradition was born to go to cemeteries on Easter Sunday though it is at disaccord with the churchs canon. During the Soviet time the majority of churches were closed. A cemetery became a place where people could pray to God, Patron Saints and ask them to protect the souls of their late beloved ones. During Holy Week shops usually started selling Vesenniy cake -that was the official name for traditional Easter kulich. Nowadays Pascha is still celebrated, but people go to cemeteries in order to commemorate the departed on Tuesday of the week following Pascha, this day is called Radonitsa.
People start preparing for the celebration on Maundy (Clean) Thursday. On this day people traditionally clean their houses and cook Easter dishes: kulich (it is usually bought and quite rarely cooked), pascha (made of cream cheese molded in a pyramid shape, symbolizing Calvary), cook and dye eggs. In the old times when there were no special food coloring, eggs was dyed using onion peel. Many families still use this method because it is natural and gives the eggs beautiful dark red color. On Saturday people usually go to churches in order for the priest to bless their kulichi, pascha and eggs.
During the last seven years the Andrei Pervozvanny (St Andrew the First-Called) Foundation brings the Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday. During the Easter Vigil the Holy Fire is brought to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and other Moscow churches. Many people consider that to take this fire home in an oil lamp is the essential part of the resurrection of Christ celebration.
At 23:00 The Easter Vigil starts in churches and cathedrals. At about 00:00 there is a cross procession and when the new day begins people greet each other saying, Christ is risen Truly He is risen!