Maslenitsa: An Orthodox Mardi Gras…With Snowball Fights

Maslenitsa, sometimes called Butter Week, Crepe Week, or Cheesefare Week (i.e. the week we say goodbye to cheese), is a very popular religious and folk holiday for Orthodox Christians in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other nearby areas.

It’s similar to Mardi Gras or Carnival, in so far as it is a festive celebration right before the fasting period of Great Lent.

In these Orthodox lands, however, the celebration focuses on eating plentiful amounts of dairy products, especially in the form of bliny (pancakes or crepes), drinking various spirits, and engaging in raucous outdoor activities such as snowball fights, sledding, sleigh rides, and burning an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa.

Every region has its own unique customs, styles of dress, food, and song. But all share a similar sense of celebration before the official beginning of fasting and sombre reflection characteristic of Great Lent.

To get a sense of the festivities, and to continue our series on Orthodox Christian artists, we’ve put together a collection of six paintings, all depicting different Maslenitsa celebrations.

1. “Maslenitsa” (1919) by Boris Kustodiyev. Isaak Brodsky Museum, St. Petersburg
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2. “Taking a Snow Town” (1891) by Vasily Surikov
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3. “Maslenitsa” (1878) by Leonid Solomatkin
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4. “Maslenitsa” (1916) by Boris Kustodiyev
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5. “Maslenitsa” (1919) by Boris Kustodiyev
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6. “Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Izhevo in 1908th” (2008) by Valentin Belykh
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Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Development at OCN. He holds…
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