Foto: Natalia Dziurdzinska.

Yesterday marked the end of Masnitsya, the oldest Slavic holiday, eating blinis and welcoming spring.

On Sunday, hundreds of Ukrainians and a few tourists gathered at VDNH in Kyiv for the annual celebration of Masnitsya, a Slavic holiday centered around butter, eggs and milk eight weeks ahead of Easter.

VDNH, the old exibition center of Kyiv, has been dressed up for party since Christmas, but the past week was different. Instead of winter decorations, traditional Ukrainian symbols now cover the walls and a stage has been set up for live music.

Most notably, effigies of straw known as the Lady Masnitsya was greeting people at the entrance, while another figure was waiting for her destiny closer to the stage. At half past eight, she was burned while the crowd cheered.

Blinis for everyone

Traditionally, Masnitsya is happening in the last week before the Great Lent – a long period of fasting in the Orthodox church ending with a great feast. It is the last week where people are allowed eggs, butter and milk.

Therefore, people make blinis, the Eastern European pancakes made primarily from said ingredients. The blinis are then filled with a wide array of toppings like cheese, chocolate, bananas, meat and mushrooms.

The blinis taste much the same as French crepes or the variations of pancakes commonly found in Scandinavian homes.

Disconnected religion

Because Masnitsya is a Christian holiday, it was also forbidden during Soviet times. Families still observed the tradition quietly, eating blinis with friends and family. However, as the CCCP fell apart, Masnitsya started reemerging in public life.

At first it started coming back in Russia during the Perestroika, but it got a firmer grip over the years and is now a commonly celebrated event. For most people, the religious part of the celebration is now gone, though.

In VDNH, there is no obvious Christian symbolism, for instance, and a lot of people treated it just like a party, while their kids were playing. Still, most people left after the burning of Lady Masnitsya.