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Eat pancakes all week long with no remorse at the Slavic Pancake Festival

A woman attends Maslenitsa festival [Pancake Week]. The holiday celebrates the end of winter and marks the arrival of spring. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS Source: Getty Images/TASS

While many Christian countries mark Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day, Russians celebrate it seven times more for the week-long celebration of Maslenitsa.

During one week which often falls in February or early March, many of the Eastern Slavic nations, but mostly Russia, celebrate an old Slavic holiday – called 'Maslenitsa'.

Marking the end of winter and the beginning of Spring the pagan holiday of Maslenitsa predates Christianity.

The event is known for its carnival and funfair with traditional blinis, Russian version of pancakes, served at every corner and in every home.

Now it prefaces the Great Orthodox Lent and the following Easter which every year rules the dates of the celebrations.

This year it fell on the  12-18 of February

Blinis are a fixture of Maslenitsa, known to many in the Western World as a Pancake Festival. Their round shape and yellow bronze colour symbolize the sun.

"We know people love their blinis and there will be a lot of them," event organiser Sergei An told SBS Russian ahead of  this year's Maslenitsa festival, which was held in Melbourne over the weekend. 

"We will have community folk groups dancing and a fair with local jewellery."

"It's a uniting event and everybody loves it."

Listen to Sergei An's full interview (in Russian) with SBS Russian in the audio player above. 

Maslenitsa in Australia

Australian Slavic communities including Russians, Bulgarians, Polish, Macedonians, Slovaks and Serbians maintained their winter tradition when moving to Australia and now celebrate it here as a community festival.

The Victorian Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Inga Peulich tells SBS Russian that the Slavic Pancake Festival is a big event that recognises the important input ethnic communities provide. 

"The Slavic community has so many challenges within them and they need the opportunity to come together," she says.

"And we need to support this particular event."

Meaningful traditions

Throughout Maslenitsa, every day of the week bears its own name and significant meaning.

Thursday for example, is the biggest party day when people enjoy all the winter fun with the sleighs, snowball fights and the real fights too.

Traditionally, bare chested men would get into a massive tug of war in the snow.

The next day, on Friday, mothers-in-law would throw a party serving piles of blinis.

Try it yourself - via SBS Food

The true speciality of the Russian blinis is their fillings which often include red caviar, salmon, eggs or sweet jams and sour cream.

Finally, on the last day of Maslenitsa, to mark the advent of Spring, a dummy made of straw symbolizing Lady Winter is set on fire.

The next day is about leaving the wildness of the holiday behind, as the religious part of the community mark the commencement of Lent.

Melbournites marked Maslenitsa at Russian House on Saturday 17th February, from 12PM to 4PM.

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