Maslenitsa (Belarusian: Масленіца, Russian: Мaсленица, Rusyn: Пущаня, Ukrainian: Масниця; also known as Butter Lady, Butter Week, Crepe week, or Cheesefare Week) is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday, which has retained a number of elements of Slavic mythology in its ritual, celebrated during the last week before Great Lent, that is, the eighth week before Eastern Orthodox Pascha.

Maslenitsa, Boris Kustodiev, 1919 (Isaak Brodsky Museum, St. Petersburg)
Also calledButter Week, Crepe week, Cheesefare Week, Syropust, Kolodiya, Masnytsia
Observed byEastern Slavs mostly Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian diaspora communities
Significanceseeing off winter last week before Great Lent
Celebrationsmaking blini (pancakes), making visits, sleigh rides, dressing up, bonfires, snowball fights, the capture of the Snow Fortress, burning of the Maslenitsa Scarecrow, In Ukraine and Belarus: eating varenyky with cottage cheese
2022 date27 February to 6 March
2023 date20 February to 26 February
Related toMardi Gras

The date of Maslenitsa changes every year, depending on the date of the celebration of Easter. It corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday, and the Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date.

The traditional attributes of the Maslenitsa celebration are the Maslenitsa effigy, sleigh rides, festivities. Russians bake bliny and flatbread, while Belarusians and Ukrainians cook pierogi and syrniki.


According to archeological evidence from 2nd century A.D. Maslenitsa may be the oldest surviving Slavic holiday.[1] In the Christian tradition, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent.[2]

During the week of Maslenitsa, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians, and it is the last week during which eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, leading to its name of "Cheese-fare week" or "Crepe week". The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny - thin pancakes or crêpes, made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition that week: butter, eggs and milk.

Since Lent excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from spiritual life, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to take part in social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.[1]

In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity. Monday may be the welcoming of "Lady Maslenitsa". The community builds the Maslenitsa effigy out of straw (из соломы), decorated with pieces of rags, and fixed to a pole formerly known as Kostroma. It is paraded around, and the first pancakes may be made and offered to the poor. On Tuesday, young men might search for a fiancée to marry after Lent. On Wednesday, sons-in-law may visit their mother-in-law, who has prepared pancakes and invited other guests for a party. Thursday may be devoted to outdoor activities. People may take off work and spend the day sledding, ice skating, snowball fights and with sleigh rides. On Friday, sons-in-law may invite their mothers-in-law for dinner. Saturday may be a gathering of a young wife with her sisters-in-law to work on a good relationship.

Sunday of Forgiveness

Celebration of Forgiveness Sunday in Belgorod, February 21, 2015.

The last day of Cheesefare Week is called "Forgiveness Sunday" (Прощёное воскресенье). Relatives and friends ask each other for forgiveness and might offer them small presents. As the culmination of the celebration, people gather to "strip Lady Maslenitsa of her finery" and burn her in a bonfire. Left-over pancakes may also be thrown into the fire, and Lady Maslenitsa's ashes are buried in the snow to "fertilize the crops".[3]

At Vespers on Sunday evening, people may make a poklon (bow) before one another and ask forgiveness. Another name for Forgiveness Sunday is "Cheesefare Sunday", because for devout Orthodox Christians it is the last day on which dairy products may be consumed until Easter. Fish, wine and olive oil will also be forbidden on most days of Great Lent. The day following Cheesefare Sunday is called Clean Monday, because people have confessed their sins, asked forgiveness, and begun Great Lent with a clean slate.

Modern times

A girl wearing a traditional Russian kokoshnik hat for Maslenitsa in Slovenia.

During Soviet times, Maslenitsa, like other religious holidays, was not celebrated officially. However, it was widely observed in families without its religious significance, as an opportunity to prepare crêpes with all sorts of fillings and coverings and to eat and share them with friends. After the start of perestroika, the outdoor celebrations resumed, although they were seen by some as an artificial restoration of a dead tradition. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Russians have returned to practicing Christianity, the tradition is still being revived.

With increasing secularization, many Russians do not abstain from meat and Maslenitsa celebrations can be accompanied by shashlik vendors. Nevertheless, "meat still does not play a major role in the festivities".[1]

Many countries with a significant number of Russian immigrants consider Maslenitsa a suitable occasion to celebrate Russian culture, although the celebrations are usually reduced to one day and may not coincide with the date of the religious celebrations.

On 20 March 2017, the British tabloid newspaper Daily Mirror painted the Maslenitsa as a Hooligan training ground. One of the centuries-old traditions in this folk festival is "wall-on-wall" (‘stenka na stenku’, Ru), which involves sparring between men dressed in traditional folk clothes. This tradition was misrepresented by the Mirror in pictures and text as a collective act of violence without providing context about the Russian traditional festival. The Mirror article was titled "Russia's Ultra yobs infiltrated amid warnings England fans could be KILLED at World Cup", and was received negatively by the Russian media, which described it as fake news.[4][5]

See also


  1. Maslenitsa, Blin! The Food and Celebration of the Russians Archived 2008-01-09 at the Wayback Machine By Josh Wilson, Newsletter, The School of Russian and Asian Studies, 9 March 2005.
  2. Maslenitsa by Margaret McKibben, Russian Folk Group of Seattle, WA, Seattle Community Network. undated.
  3. Ruslanguage School Moscow (22 February 2012). "Malenitsa, a Week of Festivities". Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  4. "Brits scared about pancake battles". 21 March 2017.
  5. "Daily Mirror misleads with wrong pictures for article on football 'Ultras' in Russia". Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  6. Busójárás
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