Maslenitsa 2012 in Koropovy Khutora, Kharkiv region

On the pre last day of Maslyana (Butter) week there was a big celebration near the village Koropovy Khutora, about 50 km from Kharkov. The weather wasn’t very nice that day, but we decided to go to have a look there. As we don’t have a car it was a little bit difficult to reach the place, but we took a bus to Zmiyov then there was another bus specially for guests of the celebration, and in one and half hour we finally arrived.

There were a lot of people, several thousands. The main thing was of course a huge effigy of Maslenitsa.

the main Maslenitsa effigy

I will not describe everything. The celebration was as it should be – with a lot of fun, music, competitions, fights, games and food.

Gipsy music band on a big stage

national folklore band

one of traditional fights

kind of Ukrainian khata (house) and women in traditional costumes

Every regional center had its own tent in national Ukrainian style with some food, drinks and Maslenitsa effigies. It was strange that almost near every tent there was a barbecue with shashlyk though according to Christian tradition it is already forbidden to eat meet during this week.  As I always say we are more pagans than Christians, and it is more important just to celebrate some holiday than to follow Christian rules.

tents and effigies

Anyway Maslenitsa is just a lot of fun and pancakes)))

table with food :)

something made from pancakes, vareniki, pies

again food: pancakes, vareniki...

and some food...

In the end of the celebration all the effigies were burned. As they were made from straw they burned too fast.

burning Maslenitsa effigies

burning big Maslenitsa effigy

After burning it everybody wanted to go home. As usual nothing was organized well: there were too many people, too many cars, but not enough buses and the roads were too narrow. So we had to spend one more hour near a big fire eating last pancakes and drinking tea before we could leave Koropovy Khutora.

So in total we spent more that 3 hours for the way and the same time enjoying the ‘party’. But I’m glad that we came there, it was my first real celebration of Maslenitsa somewhere outside the city.

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Maslenitsa: Pancake week in Russian and Ukrainian tradition

This week is a Pancake week called Maslenitsa. Every year it is celebrated more and more. We like our old traditions)))

To describe this holiday I take some parts of Wikipedia article.

“Maslenitsa (Russian: Ма́сленица, Ukrainian: Масниця, also known as Butter Week, Pancake week or Cheesefare Week), is a Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent—that is, the seventh week before Paskha (Easter). In 2012 Maslenitsa is celebrated from February 20 to February 26.

Maslenitsa has its origins in both pagan and Christian traditions. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun festival, celebrating the imminent end of the winter.

On the Christian side, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent. During Maslenitsa week, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians. It is the last week during which milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, leading to its other name of “Cheese-fare week” or “Pancake week”. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden. Furthermore, Lent also excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life. Thus, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to partake of dairy products and those social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.

The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny (pancakes), popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition: butter, eggs and milk.

Maslenitsa also includes snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity: one day for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.

As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blintzes are also thrown on the fire and Lady Maslenitsa’s ashes are buried in the snow (to “fertilize the crops”).

 Sunday of Forgiveness

The last day of Cheesefare Week is called “Forgiveness Sunday”, indicating the desire for God’s forgiveness that lies at the heart of Great Lent. At Vespers on Sunday evening, all the people make a poklon (prostration) before one another and ask forgiveness, and thus Great Lent begins in the spirit of reconciliation and Christian love. Another name for Forgiveness Sunday is “Cheesefare Sunday,” because for devout Orthodox Christians, it is the last day on which dairy products may be consumed until Paskha. Fish, wine and olive oil will also be forbidden on most days of Great Lent. The day following Cheesefare Sunday is called Clean Monday, because everyone has confessed their sins, asked forgiveness, and begun Great Lent with a clean slate.

 Modern Times

During Soviet times, Maslenitsa, like all the other religious holidays, was officially not celebrated. However, it was widely observed in families without its religious significance, just as an opportunity to prepare pancakes with all sorts of fillings and coverings and to eat them with friends. After Perestroika, the outdoor celebrations resumed, although they were seen by some as an artificial restoration of a dead tradition. Many Russians have returned to practising Christianity, however, so they are reviving the tradition.”

I would say that now the Ortodox tradition is not so important. As we usually don’t practice the fast, the last week before the fast doesn’t really mean anything. For many people Maslenitsa is a farewell to winter, the old good pagan tradition. It doesn’t matter that we have winter at least for one more month. But we know that the winter time passed and it’s almost spring. Hurray!

Some pics from the last year’s Maslenitsa at the Liberty square, Kharkov.

Russian sweets, bliny and drinks for Maslenitsa

preparing bliny (pancakes) on the stove

Lady Maslenitsa

another Lady Maslenitsa

the main Maslenitsa effigy that has been burned afterwards

Penpals & Postcrossing: learning to write all over again

I’m kind of addicted to write something to somebody. About 10 years ago I had pen friends all over Ukraine with the same interest – anime. Then Internet appeared in my life and made everything easier.

When languages became my priority I found scores of sites that connected together people like me. I don’t even know with how many people in the world I was in contact! Every day I founded at least 5 mails in my mailbox from different people from different countries. The most of them I don’t remember actually, but some of them are still my friends. After 2 or 3 years I almost stopped to correspond with my Internet friends – shortage of time, new interests… And it wasn’t so fun anymore.

Still I can say that some sites are really good. For example, here I got to know most of my penpals:

http://www.polyglot-learn-language.com/

And here I found A LOT of Japanese correspondents when I was learning Japanese:

http://www.japan-guide.com/local/

 But now I’m completely into the new hobby – postcrossing. Well, again it needs Internet, but the sense of all this is to send the real postcards.

http://www.postcrossing.com

Before I found this site, I didn’t know that so many postcards exist nowadays. For both of my countries it’s a real problem to find postcards. When I was preparing to go to France to the workcamp, I tried to find some nice postcards with Kharkov views to take with me. It was a hard job! And even now in 3,5 years the postcards in Russia and Ukraine are not very original. Just some printed photos of the cities, and not very nice photos! I think to print postcards myself J

Anyway, I find some postcards and I send them, and I receive another. The postcrossing system works like this that you send to random user and you receive from random user, so you never know where you will write.

It’s so exciting to receive real postcards! It’s even nicer if they are from some not rare countries. I was really happy with a postcard from New Zealand. If you want postcards from some exact country, you can use direct swaps – to ask somebody to exchange postcards. Me, I’m waiting now for the cards from Cuba and Puerto Rico.

And I got to know a great girl via postcrossing, and now I have a real penpal with who I exchange the real letters. I’m also happy about this! I’m always looking forward to her letters.

And of course I enjoy writing. Finding a beautiful paper, add some nice stickers, trying to write very carefully and neatly, making envelope look like nice, putting some pleasant trifles inside… It’s almost the art!

A picture that fits here:

My workcamp in France

A workcamp in France was my first volunteer experience. And just one of the best times in my life. I wrote the following report after I came back from the workcamp in 2008. It is really nice to read it again and to remember everything. Now I tried to translate it into English and I publish it here.

France was always a country of my dream. And this summer I went to a workcamp inFrance, in small Alpine village. The most of all I liked the atmosphere of the life in workcamp: from the beginning you are considered almost as a family member, as an old inhabitant of this town.  French countryside it’s something fantastic! I liked it much more than French capital (where I dropped in at the way back). The main thing is that you don’t feel like a tourist, but you organically join the local daily life and local culture. Needless to say that you practice your language skills (in my case I practices French, English and Polish), find new friends and just enjoy the awesome beauty of the Alps!

But of course there was also a work… In the mine… The work was hard and definitely not for girls. But one can survive it, especially when the Europeans while working sing “Katiusha” in Russian! In general we were working with fun and only 4 days per week. I didn’t want to leave at all, I didn’t want to part with friends, with my already home town, with the mountains and even with the mine. But now I know that I like to be a volunteer, and I can discover more and more new corners of my beloved Franc eand of the rest of the world.

30.07.08.

In the evening I leave Kharkov. I’m happy that I finally go!

31.07.08.

I leave Kiev. It is a pity that nobody sees me off on the bus. Finally I start to worry, because I go abroad for the first time and completely alone.

1.08.08.

We are standing at the Polish border the whole night, the Poles are not lazy and check all our baggage. It is obvious thatEuropewait for us with outstretched arms. I have a look a little bit atPolandandGermany, in particular at the high fences along the road.

2.08.08.

Morning. I’m alone at Paris subway. It’s a real nightmare. They could make at least some escalators there. With several changes I reach la Gare de Lion. I buy the tickets (never thought they would be so expensive) and leave Paris in one hour. By two trains and one bus (with changes at Grenoble and Gap) I reach Argentiere-la-Bessee. On the way I get to know a Bulgarian girl Zori. We hardly find our workcamp, but the main thing is that it really exists!

Paris Gare du Nord

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