Maslenitsa

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I don’t know where they heard it, or what vast pool of information they think they’re drawing from, but if anyone tells you that the people of Belarus don’t know how to celebrate the end of winter, make sure you tell them how ignorant they are!*

I base this on a recent article—complete with pictures (or, well, one anyway)—in the prestigious “New York Post” (official motto: “Not the New York paper you’re thinking of but still a pretty good read sometimes”) which shows real life Belarusians (?) celebrating the holiday Maslenitsa. Now, I had never heard of this holiday before, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it “crosses the pond” and becomes at least as big a holiday over here as, say, Secretary’s Day.

In the picture, we see two men of Belerus celebrating the holiday of Maslenitsa in traditional fashion—much as you and I would celebrate a traditional Christmas by sitting around a tree and singing Christmas carols with friends. In the picture, one Belerus soldier is laying on his back with his shirt off and a large concrete brick on his chest while another soldier smashes the brick with a sledge hammer that—for reasons the article is not clear about—is on fire.

According to the article, Maslenitsa is a celebration which commemorates the end of winter with, I quote, “pancake eating and shows of strength.” No, I’m not just stealing “Festivus” from the TV show “Seinfeld”. This is a real holiday, celebrated by real Belarusians. Apparently, the eating of the pancakes is because pancakes are round and golden (ideally, the ones at my house tend to be either runny or burnt) and represent the sun, which the people in the far northern climes of the world are hoping will be out soon. So, rather like the way we eat a groundhog on February 2nd, they eat the sun.

The holiday has other names, too. Just as our “4th of July” is also known as “Independence Day” and … other names that don’t readily come to mind for some reason, Maslenitsa is also known as Butter Week, Pancake Week or (I’m sure you saw this coming) Cheesefare Week, so named because at the end of the week all the uneaten pancakes are thrown into a bonfire, along with an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa. No, I don’t get the connection, either.

And no, I’m not making fun of someone else’s holidays, I’m making fun of ours! Seriously, after you’ve had someone shatter a brick on your chest with a flaming sledge-hammer, how could you ever go back to bobbing for apples at a Halloween party? How can those horrifying “Peeps” ever compare to endless pancakes? And hunting for inedible eggs in the yard? Puh-lease!

* Also, slam the door when you leave.