Apparently in pre-Christian times the roundness of the pancakes came to symbolize the sun and, therefore, they were made in honor of the ending winter. (Spring is considered to begin on the first of March here, so technically even though it is still below freezing outside it is officially spring!)
For the Christian view of the holiday (as I’ve read), Maslenitsa is the last week before Lent begins. Of course what better way to celebrate your last week of eating whatever you like than filling it with lots of pancakes and festivities. For Orthodox Christians meat is already forbidden during this week, however it is the last week that milk, cheese and other dairy products are allowed. So pancake week becomes a chance to get in your last bit of celebrating before you have to be all prayerful and introspective for the next forty days.
First let me say, pancakes here and pancakes at home are NOT the same. Back home you have huge, thick, fluffy pancakes drowning in butter and maple syrup. Here pancakes are closer to crÃªpes so they are very thin, they are called blini, and you fill them with fruit, cheese or maybe even meat. Condensed milk is also an acceptable topping and instead of coming in a can it comes in a squeezable bag. Strange, I know!
Everyone joined in the fun of cooking, yes even me, though I may still need supervision to get it right. After lots of laughter, a little competition and a dancing tea kettle, we carried a plate piled high with blini back to the girls’ dorm room and chose between apple, banana, cheese or jam filling. After eating and cleaning up, we played games and hung out until the concern of missing the last marshutka home forced our fun to end.
All in all a great evening spent with the girls.