Maslenitsa (Butter Week or also known as Pancake Week) is a Ukrainian religious celebration. The holiday is celebrated the 7th week before Orthodox Easter. This year 2011, Maslenitsa festivities will take place between the 28th of February and 6th of March.
Maslenitsa also used to be called Myasopust, meaning the time of meat fasting - Orthodox Christians refrain from eating meat during this week. The key symbol of Maslenitsa are pancakes - round, golden and warm, they represent the sun and the welcoming of spring. The pancakes are served with butter, sour cream, mushrooms or caviar.
The other symbol of the celebrations is Lady Maslenitsa – a colorfully dressed scarecrow. At the peak of the holiday, poor Lady Maslenitsa is stripped and burnt in a bonfire which is the way of saying goodbye to the winter. Apart from that, people enjoy the time with carnivals, sleigh-riding, sledding or snowball battles.
The last day is called the Forgiveness Day. Everyone asks for forgiveness, people bow to each other and say "God will forgive you". That is the end of the Maslenitsa feast. The next day is called Clean day as everybody is clean of their sins.
During the times of Soviet Union, Maslenitsa was prohibited as it was a religious holiday. It was later restored and while the tradition is strongest and most popular in Moscow, it also celebrated elsewhere in Russia, in Ukraine and to a smaller extent in other countries where Russian Orthodox Christians live.
In Ukraine, you can experience the tradition some 30 minutes drive away from Kiev, in a village named Novo-Petrovtsi. There is a very nice, restored Ukrainian house from the 18th century called Khata Savki where one family – grandma, mother, father, son and daughter - gladly explain the rituals and habits including delicious Ukrainian food!
Make your own pancakes
You will need:
4 to 5 eggs
200 g of butter
3 to 4 glasses of milk
salt and sugar
topping of your choice
To make simple thin pancakes you need to make the dough of milk, eggs and salt. First separate the yolks from whites. Stir the yolks with a bit of sugar, slowly adding milk whilst stirring. Into this add salt and melted hot butter. Then stir the dough slowly until it is soft and there are no lumps. As the last step, add the stirred whites. Pour the dough on a hot frying pan so there is a thin layer and fry until golden (not as easy at it sounds!). You can try to top the pancake with pretty much anything. Apart from the aforementioned caviar or mushrooms, pancakes will be tasty with spinach, cheese, smoked salmon or sweet - with jam or honey.