Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Maslenitsa (Butter Week)

A traditional Eastern European village scene depicting the Maslenitsa Festival

As you may know from my previous blog posts, I love honouring my Eastern European roots - especially when it comes to food!

Referring back to my Ukrainian Easter blog post last year, as I follow my family's religion -  Ukrainian Greek Catholic (similar to the Eastern Orthodox faith), our Easter occasionally falls on the same day as Western Easter, but nearly always falls at least a week afterwards.  For 2013, Easter will be quite late into Spring and will fall on 5th May.

Pre-Easter preparations follow in a similar vain to Western Easter with the Maslenitsa festival bearing synergy to the principles of Shrove Tuesday.

Maslenitsa (translated means 'Butter Week') and is marked by not only Ukrainians, but by Russians and other Slavic/Orthodox nations as well.  It is celebrated the week before Great Lent commences, the seventh week before Pascha (Easter) and starts on a Monday.  For 2013, it falls on 11th March - 17th March.

In essence, Maslenitsa marks the imminent end of winter and the beginning of spring.  With regards to food, during this week meat is forbidden and it is the last opportunity to consume dairy products (eg: milk, cheese etc) plus it is the last chance to revel in social jollities before Lent commences.

As with all festivals, there are regional variations and in many parts of the Ukraine celebrations include merriment in the snow (as snow is still prevalent) with snowball fights and sledding forming part of the fun.

One common factor unites Western and Eastern pre-Lent festivities and that's pancakes!  Again, as per Shrove Tuesday, pancakes are the main way of using up dairy products with typical Ukrainian toppings being sour cream or jam.

Hands-up, I'm celebrating a week late (more practical for me to celebrate this week)!  But I am still marking the occasion, the countdown to Easter begins and again my kitchen is filled with batter mixture and hopes that my pancakes will flip-over in one piece!  

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