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Maslenitsa, pancakes and bears

Today there is no a man who has not ever heard the word “Mardi Gras” or “Maslenitsa” by Russian. Mardi Gras is a catholic holiday while Maslenitsa is the Christian one. This is the main difference. The rest is similar. So I suggest of considering these words as synonyms.  Do you know the Holiday history and traditions? I think that only few people do it. I want to tell you about it.


The Pancake week by the orthodox calendar has been starting on seven, March and will last until 13, March. As usually, this Holiday lasts seven days. This is the last week “Cheese Sedmitsa” by name before Lent by the Christian faith. Heathenry in honor of The Sun God “Yarilo” is origin of the “Mardi gras”. The brightest Holiday attribute are round, ruddy battercakes. These are symbols of The Sun shining brighter each day making a day longer and warmer. Different milk products, eggs and fish are able for food while meat is prohibited. The Holiday sense is not only kind communication with friends and relatives, but also a preparation for Lent, in a way.

 “Maslenitsa” had been being the New Year start for a long time for the Slavs. The cause is that March of ancient Russia was the first month of a year until the 14th century. As far as a man will meet a year as he will spend it the ancient superstition said, so the Holiday attributes are wide feast and impetuous joy. The holiday usually has many adnouns such as “fair”, “wide”, “overeaten”, “beggarer”.

Pancakes with honey

Each the pancake week day has its own certain rite.

Monday. Mardi Gras welcome. Some years later people fixed straw woman on a stick and carried it by surroundings singing songs.

Tuesday. That day is called “sparkling” or “zaigrysh”. Formerly, people walked around street puppet wagons in the afternoons while in the evenings they were mummers to joy and play with familiars and narratives.

Wednesday. This is gourmand day. Traditionally, affluent jolly fellow begins from Wednesday.

Pancakes with red caviar

Thursday is called “revelry”, “abundant” day. This is the middle of the Pancake week. There were fist fight sparrings on Thursdays in the Ivan IV Terrible years. Men could do their second duty after these fights without any fear to invite mother in law for feast.

Friday is a “mother in law evenings”. That day mothers in law are on a visit to their sons-in-law. Although, it can be quite to the contrary, that is mothers-in-law can be hosted. What is the shape of your heart choose yourself. The main that day must have a slogan like this: “Damn no wedge, the belly is not split”

Saturday is ‘’sister`s in law talkings” day. That day young daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law should cook meal and pancakes.

Sunday is called “Shrove Sunday” and this is last day of the Pancake week. That day you should walk from house to house and ask forgiveness of everybody humbly. The lips kiss is necessary attribute for new old friends. As for Sunday meal, there can be abundant feast, even for Enoch, by old books. By the Moscow Patriarchate assurance, you can eat everything you want except of meat.

At last, the main event of the funny Pancake Week is burning of Mardi Gras straw woman. It was winter farewell. The straw woman was belled and burnt. So, ding-a-ling signalized that Peron took away “Maslenitsa” till the next year.

So, winter was dying in the face of the audience but there was no regret about it. Totally, our life and deaf were always together for heathens, making original, endless iterative loop like seasons.

In spite of many countries have such holiday, there is no one to celebrate it so widely except of Russia! Therefore, many tourists from abroad try to see The Russian “Maslenitsa” celebration. 

To describe unsuccessful start of any business the Russians usually say, “The first pancake is always lump”.  Actually, this is only a part of the expression perverted by the time. It spells so:

«The first pancake is always for “koms” (lumps),

The second one is always for familiars,

The third one is always for distant relatives,

And the fourth is mine».

 “Who are these koms, and why they should have the first pancake?”, you, probably, ask me. I can answer that these are our brown and clumsy animals – bears by name, which were usually called koms in old days. On account of seeming they look like large wool lump. Many nations had bear cult earlier. The ancient Slavs, The Celts, The Scythian consider a bear as The Forest Master.

Our favourite holiday was called “Komoeditsa” some tines ago. This holiday was devoted to bear`s awakening which were our ancestors by their opinion. The first mistress baked pancakes should had been carried to bear`s lair which awaked after winter hibernation and were hungry almighty.


The word “kom” had got its truly meaning by the Christening Russia Time. People ate the first pancake baking during this week for the repose of the soul. The pancake must be a lump in throat when a man remembered dead parents or relatives. While the first Mardi gras pancake was given to a beggar to pray for departed spirits.

There is nobody to wake up bears with pancakes today and old Christian custom is not often executed. But saying took roots, getting new sense. And such is the first pancake is always for “koms”.

At the end I want to wish you bon appetit and enjoy of The Rusian Wide Maslenitsa!

Thanks very much for your attention.

Sincerely yours, R.Z.

Take care of yourself.


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