Spring Calling – is a cycle of celebrations designed to “awake’ mother Earth from the winter sleep. This cycle includes such holidays as “Maslenitsa “, “Vialikdzen” (Easter) and others. Each celebration is characterized by specific cycles of spring songs. People do all these activities in order to awake spring from the winter sleep. «Maslenitsa» is an old Slavic holiday which has survived from ancient times till nowadays. To say briefly it is the fun farewell of winter, lit up with the joyful expectation of upcoming spring warmth and renewal of the nature. According to Belarusian traditions, Maslenitsa has the following main attributes that have been preserved through centuries.
The Effigy of Maslenitsa Burning down the straw effigy symbolizes the major motif and idea of the celebration – the farewell of the cold season. Effigy should be burned at stake also because it symbolizes annual renewal of the nature. People also get rid of outworn items by throwing them into the fire. By doing so they make themselves free from all the sorrow and sins, which are destroyed by purifying fire. The strength of the fire reveals the length of the period left before the arrival of spring and the shape and amount of ashes show would the harvest be good or not.
Pancakes The symbol and the main course of the holiday are pancakes – golden, round, hot, symbolizing the sun and the imminent arrival of spring days. Each hostess had her own recipes for cooking pancakes. The pancakes ritual is aimed to invite and to “butter up” the sun, and the name of the very celebration “Maslenitsa” («Butter Day») originates from this tradition.
Horseback riding In Belarusian villages people use to ride horses harnessed to decorated sleighs. In front of the sleigh a shaft is installed, with a wheel symbolizing the sun fixed at the top. The sleds usually go in a rapid sequence and sometimes the “long train” of sleds, attached to each other, moves around the villages to the accompaniment of cheerful songs and greetings.
Joy and fun Maslenitsa was always accompanied by merry folk festivals – clothes changing, dances and songs. The mummers and buffoons took part in all entertainments and fun. One of the peculiar rituals of Maslenitsa – the jollify fist fights were also widespread up to first quarter of the XX century. Our ancestors believed that those who do not have enough fun during Maslenitsa would spend the new year in indigence and joylessness.