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Blini Day

Blini Day in Russia is a celebration held during Blini Week or “Maslenitsa”. This blend of Christian traditions with pagan beliefs is the last period for feasting before the beginning of the traditional Lent season of fasting. The most prominent element of Blini Week is the blini – a type of pancake which is eaten either with savory food such as fish and onions, but most often during Blini Week they are eaten with sweet toppings such as honey, syrup or jam.

Pre-Christian Slavic peoples gave the blini ritual significance, seeing them as symbolizing the sun – round, warm and golden. Blini were traditionally served at the end of the winter season in honor of the rebirth of the sun or the arrival of summer. This pagan ritual of welcoming the sun was blended with the Christian tradition of carnival before the onset of Lent, and Maslenitsa became a deeply entrenched tradition with mostly Christian overtones. During Lent forbidden foods include meat, fish, dairy products and eggs. Blini Day is seen as the perfect opportunity to use up these ingredients in each household, in preparation for the upcoming fasting.

During Lent it is also forbidden to have parties, secular music, dancing and anything else which may serve as a distraction from spiritual activities. Maslenitsa provides the last opportunity to party before the prayerful period of Lent. The Blini Week celebrations include street parades, sledding, snowball fights and sleigh rides. Some areas continue to observe the old tradition of an activity being highlighted for each day of Maslenitsa. These activities include people from neighboring villages visiting one another; sweet tooth day when friends and neighbors visit each other to consume copious quantities of blini smothered in anything sweet and usually accompanied by cream; daughter-in-law’s parties where a young wife will welcome all her husband’s relatives into her home.

The seventh day of Blini Week is called “Forgiveness Sunday” where everybody forgives everybody else for any wrong doing or hurt feelings of the past year. Everybody also asks God for forgiveness of their sins and they then consider themselves to be in a position to enjoy “Clean Monday” and begin Lent with a clean slate.

Lady Maslenitsa is represented as a brightly dressed straw figure and is the mascot of Blini Week. On “Forgiveness Sunday”, the culmination of the week long celebration, Lady Maslenitsa is thrown onto the flames of a bonfire along with any remaining blinis. The ashes are buried under the snow to symbolize the fertilization of future crops.

Should you visit Russia during Blini Week, you are sure to enjoy this colorful and sweet celebration.

 



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