Traditional celebrations of Cheese Week in Ukraine. Why pancakes are the symbol of Masliana?

Masliana (also called as Butter/Cheesefare Week) is a sunny and bright ancient feast which marks the meeting of winter with spring and switch to a new life cycle. This holiday is associated with delicious food and great celebrations. During Cheese Week people enjoy the sun and eat a record amount of flavorful, appetizing pancakes. However, not everyone knows the history of the origin of this feast.

Masliana is one of the oldest Slavic holidays since it goes back to pre-Christian times, when people worshipped pagan deity. Masliana symbolized the coming of spring and awakening of nature. Ancient Slavic people celebrated “farewell to winter” and the beginning of spring and farming. On this day people honored Sun which gives warmth and wakens nature. They cooked “sacrificial food”, pancakes, which were similar in form and color to the Sun. Round, golden pancakes embodied bright Sun that is also round, hot, and yellow-colored.

Pagan rituals were dedicated to God Veles, the patron of cattle breeding and farming. The orthodox Masliana has somehow preserved the pagan way of celebration. The personification of the holiday is the dummy of “Masliana” which is burnt on the seventh day and symbolizes the godship which dies and then resurrects.

Today Masliana is one of church holidays. This tasty and hearty feast lasts the whole week, and precedes the beginning of Orhodox Lent.

Diverse recipes for pancakes were kept secret by housewives, and passed down as family heritage for generations. Each woman had her own special ingredients. However, in general, pancakes were cooked using wheat, oatmeal or cornmeal flour. Such products as cream, dairy butter, apples, pumpkin, and potato were also added to the batter.

The holiday name “Masliana” is related with the fact that in the week before Lent, meat products were excluded from the food ration, while dairy products (which are traditional ingredients for cooking pancakes – milk, eggs, dairy butter, and sour cream) were allowed to be eaten. Among people this holiday is associated with yummy pancakes and joyful festivals aimed to awake spring and chase away winter.

Masliana is always accompanied by cheery celebrations, merry songs, dances, games, ice skating, fairs, cooking of rich dishes such as pancakes and varenyky.

Loud celebrations have several goals – first one is to eat your fill and celebrate to your heart’s content before the longest Lent in the year starts, second one is to find your love if you’re still alone.

The celebration terminates on Forgiveness Sunday when people burn the dummy of Masliana, which symbolizes the release of space for spring and renovation. On this day, it’s recommended to ask for forgiveness as well as forgive your offenders.

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