Real Russia Blog

International Women`s day in Russia
8
March
2017

International Women`s day in Russia

Holiday which celebrates Womanhood and Spring

This day celebrates all womanhood, and announces spring; however, the weather can still be chilly like in winter, but the warm sun, smell of melting snow and birds’ singing is a reminder of the beauty of spring.

One hundred years ago

International Women’s day played a great role in the Russian Revolution of 1917. As Revolutionary Leon Trotsky said, it “inaugurated the revolution.” As described in Wikipedia, “In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women's Day in Saint Petersburg (a capital at that time) on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution. Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for 'Bread and Peace' – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.“ Four days after that demonstration the Russian Emperor resigned, and Russia ceased to be a monarchy.

After the October Revolution, in 1918, the 8th of March became a public holiday.

How do people celebrate now?

Men offer gratitude to all women, no matter old or young, married or unmarried, mothers or not. It is an opportunity to honor motherhood, beauty, and the wisdom of women. As Russian proverb says, ‘the man is the head of the family, the woman is the neck.’ This proverb reflects the role of a woman in the family in Russia, her inwardness and ability to empower her husband.

Men give presents and flowers to significant women. School children present gifts and buckets of flowers to their teachers, and do crafts at schools and in nurseries to present to mums and grandmothers. Even little girls receive gifts from their relatives. At work places men organize celebrations on the last day before the holiday, with gifts, flowers and festive tables. Employers may also present something to the female employees.

Several days before the holiday the 'shopping fever' begins. One can come across a flower shortage and suitable presents fly away from the shop shelves. So, wise men buy them in advance, also not to overpay for the last-minute gifts. Men are always puzzled what to buy. Traditional presents are perfume and cosmetics, along with flowers (tulips, mimosas and roses). The yellow branches of mimosa are the symbol of the holiday. Mimosa and other flowers are traditional printed on postcards; they signify spring, which is a great deal in Russia, with its long harsh winters.

This is a true family holiday, people stay home, arrange festive celebrations, or may visit friends and relatives. Men and children can take over in the kitchen to prepare a festive meal. One can see happy women’s faces everywhere. The 8th of March is a special day for all women, a day full of congratulations, compliments and gifts.

We would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to all women who celebrate this day!

If you think about travelling to Russia, why not get in touch with our travel experts about arranging a trip.

Real Russia Blog

Russian Holidays: Maslenitsa
20
February
2017

Russian Holidays: Maslenitsa

Perhaps the most cheerful and delicious holiday in Russia – Pancake week !!

The history and meaning of Maslenitsa

Russians celebrate the week before the beginning of Lent as Maslenitsa, which means ‘Butter Week’ (from the Russian word ‘maslo’, meaning butter). Since the dawn of time people have celebrated an ancient Slavic holiday related to the Vernal Equinox which, after Christianity, was implemented in the orthodox religious tradition. During this week, Russian Orthodox Christians ease into their Lenten fast by removing meat from their diet. Butter, milk and cheese remain. So, the week before the Great Lent is also the last opportunity to try delicious and filling pancakes. But not just this. Butter Week includes many celebrations and entertainments which people avoid during Lent, aimed at the cleaning both their body and soul.

In past times, traditional Butter Week entertainments included strolling through public places in fine clothes or in masks and costumes, visiting friends and relatives, enjoying rich foods, taking sleigh rides, attending plays put on by troupes of traveling actors, playing winter games, such as sliding down specially constructed hills of ice, and participating in rituals marking the death of winter.

Maslenitsa celebrations, Russia

Maslenitsa celebrations, Russia

Seven days of Maslenitsa

Every day of Maslenitsa has its own traditions.

Monday is the meeting of Maslenitsa, who is personified in a giant straw doll, dressed in old woman clothes, and snow games including tobogganing.

Tuesday is a day of merriment, when everyone participates in games and competitions for adults and children including, folk festivals, puppet shows, sleigh rides, ice-skating and horse-riding. Pancake Week in 18th century Russia was hard to imagine without bear shows; trained bears amused the audience. Bear fun was very popular among all classes of the population of towns, cities and villages.

Wednesday is a day for those with a sweet tooth, as people begin to eat pancakes, honey gingerbreads, drink brewed beer and hot sbiten (an alcoholic drink made from water, honey and spices), and every mother-in-law is to treat their son-in-law.

Thursday is a day of revelry, with the hottest fist-fights, games and fun.

On Friday, every son-in-law must treat their mother-in-law.

Saturday is the celebration of daughters-in-law, including presenting gifts and pancakes.

On Sunday, everyone asks forgiveness from each other, followed by the response, “God will forgive you”. On this day, also called ‘Clean Sunday’, people visit a banya and burn everything left from this festival, including a solemn burning of the Maslenitsa doll in a great bonfire. Burning it symbolizes the farewell to winter. On this day people also besiege and occupy the snow fortress, once again signifying the defeat of winter and the arrival of spring.

Nowadays, many Russian cities offer Maslenitsa celebrations. Events will take place all week throughout the cities' main streets and parks, and include pancake tasting, fairs and concerts, as well as workshops and presentations.

Blinis – round, yellow and as hot as the sun

Blinis with red caviar

Russian blinis with red caviar

Pancakes, or blinis, have become a symbol of the celebration. They signify warmth and prosperity. Russian blinis should be thin, golden brown, and about the size of a saucer. After removing them from the pan, Russians roll the blinis up around a variety of rich fillings. These fillings include cheese, meat, sturgeon, caviar, sour cream and jam, apples, mushrooms and onions, poppy seeds, and much more.

You can check out 'interesting' attempt at making blinis from a few years ago, here. We should probably try again soon …

If you are interested in Maslenitsa and would like to experience Russian' culture, why not get in touch with our travel experts about arranging a trip.