After glancing at the somewhat one sided spectacle (it’s great if you are in Russia) that is The Year of Language and Literature, it seems only fair to point you in the direction of where the party will really be happening here in the UK. Well, here’s hoping.
Yes, we will have to wait a little longer, but the start date of 7th March will be upon us sooner than we expect. It will soon be time for: The Russian Maslenitsa Festival.
In essence, Maslenitsa is a celebrating of the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Interestingly, it combines elements of an ancient Pagan sun festival with the ceremony and ritual of the Russian Orthodox Church. Whilst that sounds like a (literally) unholy marriage, just think about the weird schizophrenia that is our Christmas: fir trees, rampant commercialism and Jesus?
In case you haven’t already realised it: Christianity had a habit of grafting holy acceptability onto the backs of ancient Pagan beliefs. It was the ideal, smart compromise: they knew that the old ways would not be given up, but no problem, you can still celebrate but now the festival is a Christian one (with a blind eye turned towards the odd Pagan ritual or icon that just wouldn’t go away).
The week-long celebration in London is billed as: “the most prominent presentation of Russian culture outside Russia” and will consist of a series of events held in various venues and sites across the Capital. It’s largely a celebration of the arts featuring exemplary contributions from film, music, fashion, modern art and literature, all culminating in a Maslenitsa concert on March 12th. There is another celebratory element that no self-respecting Russian festival would be seen without: food!
It will be Russian pancake week (and much more too, no doubt). Pancakes, being decidedly round and yellow are edible symbols of the sun. By consuming them you are literally taking the sun into your very being. No doubt that’s something that every frozen Russian felt like doing by the time that another murderously cold Russian Winter had run it’s course.
Frankly, all of this sounds fantastic: just look at the range on offer for last year’s celebration.
I’d really like to give you a list of confirmed dates and times for the UK celebrations, but where are they? Apparently the 2016 programme “will be announced soon”, so okay. This does seem a little odd, considering that February is knocking on our door and then March will be just around the corner.
We are used to line-ups being broadcast months in advance, and the whole build up ‘thing’ rolling onwards. Maybe they do things differently, maybe there are some last minute confirmations outstanding. I don’t know.
I’ll have to do some snooping around, but in any case the history and beliefs associated with the event are interesting in their own right, so we’ll be looking at those also.
For instance: the whole Pancake thing was historically a major deal, with rivalries and secret recipes, and some prestige associated with delivering the best. The festival itself was also known as “sugar lips,” “kissy week,” “merrymaking,” and even “pig-out week” according to Russia Beyond The Headlines. Pig-out week? That sounds fantastic!