Spring, Maslenitsa, Blini

Why is Spring associated with blini (Russian-style pancakes) for Russians? Just because in Spring they eat a lot of blini.

Russian pancakes, also known as blini or blinchiki, are really special for people raised in Russia. Blini are a really important part of Russian culture as they are a pearl of Russian cuisine.

            Blini are much wider and thinner than American-style pancakes, but not as thin and wide as crepes. It allows you to stuff them with everything you like; such as ground-beef, ham, cheese, and salmon. You also can eat them with caviar, sour cream, jam, chocolate cream, honey, condense milk, berries, or other sweets.

            The origins of this Russian dish can be traced back to pagan times when blini were made for Maslenitsa. 

Maslenitsa

According to archeologists, Maslenitsa may be the oldest surviving Slavic holiday. The word “Maslenista” means “Butter Week”, from “maslo” meaning butter.

            In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun-festival, personified by the ancient god Volos, and a celebration of the imminent end of the winter. In the Christian tradition, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent.

           During Maslenitsa, it is the last week when eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted.

Traditional Maslenitsa activities include parading in fine clothes with masks and costumes, visiting friends and relatives while enjoying rich foods, taking sleigh rides, attending plays put on by troupes of traveling actors, playing winter games, and participating in rituals marking the end of winter.

            Blini have become a symbol of Maslenitsa. They signify warmth and prosperity.

Monday

Meeting of Maslenitsa, who is personified in a giant straw doll dressed in old woman clothes. People also play snow games like tobogganing.

Tuesday

Everyone participates in activities and competitions for adults and children including, folk festivals, puppet shows, sleigh rides, ice-skating and horse-riding. In the past, bear shows were also part of Tuesday activities.

Wednesday

People begin to eat blini, honey gingerbread (pryaniki), and drink brewed beer or hot sbiten (alcoholic drink made from water, honey and spices). Every mother-in-law must treat their son-in-law to lunch or dinner.

Thursday

A day of revelry with fist fights, games, and fun.

Friday

Every son-in-law must treat their mother-in-law to lunch or dinner.

Saturday

A celebration of daughters-in-law, including presenting gifts and blini.

Sunday

Called “Forgiveness Sunday”, relatives and friends ask each other for forgiveness, followed by the response, “God will forgive you”.  At the culmination of the celebration, people gather to burn the straw doll of Maslenitsa in a bonfire. Left-over blini may also be thrown into the fire. The ashes are then buried in the snow to “fertilize the crops“.

Maslenitsa during Soviet time

During Soviet times, Maslenitsa, like other religious holidays, was not celebrated officially. It was, however, widely observed in families without its religious significance. Maslenitsa was an opportunity to prepare blini with all sorts of fillings and coverings and to eat and share them with friends. After the start of perestroika, the outdoor celebrations were simplified for modern times. As many Russians have returned to practicing Christianity, the tradition is still being revived.

            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.

Celebration of Maslenitsa at Lawler Branch Library
New Bedford

            Nowadays, many Russian cities offer Maslenitsa celebrations. Events will take place from the 4th to the 10th of March 2019 throughout the main streets and parks which will include blini tasting, fairs, concerts, workshops, and presentations as well.

Classic blini are made of wheat flour, milk and eggs.

            Frying blini is easy, but you have to be careful not to burn them as they become ready quite fast. The pan should be really hot before you start frying the first one.

What is your favorite Spring food?

BLINI

Ingredients 

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • Approx. 1 cup of flour 
  • 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Whisk eggs, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of milk to the mixture.
  3. Slowly start stirring in flour. Start with a 1/4 of a cup, stir in the remaining hot (optional) milk, and then continue with adding flour to the mixture.

            Optional: Taste mixture to see if more sugar or salt is needed.

  1. Stir in oil to the mixture.
  2. Let mixture rest for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pour batter onto hot pan and flip when necessary.

Author: Elena

Hi, My name is Elena. I am Russian living in the US. My blog is about my life and experience. This is my new hobby. So, please, don't be too hard on me. Thanks

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