Maslenitsa. A bit of history (Article)

The oldest Slavic holiday Maslenitsa has survived to this day in a distorted form with a predominance of its entertainment part, with round dances, bonfires, pancakes and indispensable invitations to visit. Even the Orthodox Church now considers Maslenitsa not a pagan holiday, but its own, Orthodox, and considers it as a preparation for a long Great Lent. This happened with many holidays, but Shrovetide is the most striking example. It is known that until the 17th century, they tried to ban this old, truly popular holiday of spring and the birth of life and persecuted those who celebrated it openly.

It is clear that nothing came of this venture to eradicate "demonic fun", and the people defended their right to have fun in the last days of winter. Since the 18th century, the church stopped paying such close attention to the holiday, and the demonstrative festivities of the tsars only strengthened Maslenitsa in the life of the Russian people, although they distorted the essence of what was happening. Since the second half of the 18th century, the church "adapted" Shrovetide for its own purposes and did not forbid parishioners to participate in the general bacchanalia, while imposing certain restrictions on the composition of food suitable for food on these days, and strict "regulations" for prayers. Each of the seven (and up to the 17th century, fourteen) Shrovetide days had its own name.

By the beginning of the 20th century, all the names were mixed - ancient, church, folk, and now Maslenitsa is a celebration of the meeting of spring, cheerful, carefree, with abundant food and, most importantly, pancakes. Pancakes for Shrovetide have become the central dish, its symbol. As in ancient times, pancakes in the mind of a person symbolize the sun. Only in distant pre-Christian times, our ancestors prayed to the sun god Yarila, and cooked pancakes in gratitude to Yarila for the light and warmth.

The name Shrovetide came from the celebration of spring, that is, March 1 (March 21-23 to 15-16 c), the beginning of the new year. At this time, cows were calving, and they had a lot of milk, which means that there was enough butter in the house. The word oil originally sounded like smeared, that is, what a pancake is smeared with. Grease or oil in this case was a symbol of prosperity, a new rich and well-fed year. Pancakes on Shrovetide were also an earthly reflection of the sun. Damn - like a small sun - round and hot. To grease a pancake with butter means to bring a gift to the sun, to appease it. Just as today, the first half of January is given to Russia as a holiday, so in ancient times our ancestors celebrated the New Year on a grand scale, only at the beginning of spring. Hence the burning of the effigy of winter, round dances, bonfires and other echoes of the pagan past. There is a version that the Maslenitsa holiday in ancient times was in honor of the god Veles, the patron saint of cattle breeding.