The Russian butter week, Maslenitsa, has just started. Check out the best places to eat Russian pancakes in St Petersburg and forget about the upcoming Lent
Maslenitsa, a feast for everybody
The shortest month of the year is coming to an end and the longest and strictest fasting season is coming. Before beginning to fast, whether you are an Orthodox or a Catholic, you can say goodbye to winter and welcome spring with an entire week of eating. According to the tradition of Maslenitsa (Мaсленица in Russian), also known as butter week, you can give yourself one last chance to bask in worldly delights before the onset of Lent.
The Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday, corresponding to the Western Christian Carnival, lasts for eight days. Its tradition has a dual ancestry: the pagan, to mark the end of winter, and the Christian, the last week before Lent.
Every day of Maslenitsa is devoted to special rituals. The week ends on Forgiveness Sunday, when, after a week of feasting, people ask forgiveness for all of their grievances and troubles and prepare themselves for Easter.
The traditional Russian dish to prepare and eat during the week is pancakes (блины in Russian), served with caviar, mushrooms, jam, Russian sour cream or butter. It is not a coincidence that the translation of the holiday’s name, Maslenitsa, is linked with butter: the etymology derives from the Russian word maslo, which means both butter and oil, the main ingredient of pancakes.
The episodes from movie The Barber of Siberia (Сибирский Цирюльник) by Nikita Mikhalkov shows how Maslenitsa has been celebrated in XIX century.
Five places in St Petersburg to eat bliny
1. The Kirov Central Park of Culture and Recreation (Yelagin Island)
Take part in the Maslenitsa festivities in the Central Park of Culture and Recreation on Yelagin Island. Previously a royal residence, these days, Yelagin Island is open to all visitors.
Street fairs, folk dances, funny competitions and, of course, various pancakes will be waiting for you on Yelagin Island. The festival programme also includes performances by folk groups from St Petersburg and Veliky Novgorod. A large 3D-show with burning effigies is expected near the end of the day.
When: 26 February, from 12pm to 6pm
Where: Yelagin Island, St Petersburg, 197110
Price: From 50 to 200 roubles
2. Moskovskaya Square
Come and join the Maslenitsa celebration on Moskovskaya Square. In summertime, the square is famous for its magnificent musical shows with fountains, which are held every evening, in the winter– for its festivals and fairs.
Art and crafts workshops will be on offer for all guests to take part in different master classes: how to use a spinning-wheel, how to draw pictures in the old style, how to forge a coin or a nail, and so on. Russian style performances will be held on the main stage. All visitors will be able to see performances by theatrical groups from St Petersburg and the Leningrad region.
The festival on Moskovskaya Square will last for four days, each of which will offer you a variety of tea, Russian sweets, and, of course, pancakes. At the fair, you can buy utensils made from ceramics and iron in the Russian style, souvenirs made of bark, clay, and glass, hearty delicacies, fragrant teas and honey, jam, and berries.
When: From 23 to 26 February, from 12pm until the evening
Where: Moskovskaya Square, St Petersburg, 196135
Many amusing open air celebrations will be waiting for guests: fun competitions, fairs, folk singing and dancing. The theatre group Абажур (Abazhur) will present an entertainment show and different competitions for all of the guests.
For those who want to find out more about Russian culture and customs, there will also be a series of workshops. There is no need to mention that many delicious pancakes with various fillings will be waiting for you.
When: 25 February, from 1pm to 6pm
Where: 3 ulitsa Morskogo Desanta, Peterhof (Petrodvorets), St Petersburg, 198516
4. Pavlovsk Park (Pavlovsk)
From the very morning, guests will be treated to pancakes and tea from a samovar (Russian old kettle). Afterwards, there are going to be large celebrations, including a parade on Shrove Tuesday with moving scenery. During the days of the festival, there will also be a competition of accordionists – you can enjoy authentic folk music live from talented musicians. Don’t miss the fire show on the last day of the festival.
When: 25 and 26 February, from 10am to 6pm
Where: Pavlovskiy Park, Pavlovsk, 196625
5. Dubki park (Sestroretsk)
Real Russian bogatiri (heroes of Russian folk legends) will be meeting guests at this festival. Dubki park will be decorated with colourful art objects from Russian folk tales and everyone will be able to take amusing photos in this fantasy world.
For those who enjoy sports activities, there will be a great choice: pillow fights, tug-of-war, lifting weights – old holiday games that will determine the strongest man of the day. Theatrical performances of folk ensembles will be held on the main stage during the whole day. All the guests of the festival will enjoy authentic Russian pancakes with toppings of their choice.
When: 26 February, from 12pm to 6pm
Where: Dubki park, 37 Bolshoy Liteiniy Prospekt, Sestroretsk, 197706