One of the most celebrated Russian holidays just finished this past weekend, Maslinitsa. This holiday is based on the pagan tradition of ushering out winter and welcoming the spring. The main event of this holiday is a week long spree of eating blini. This is when you can find blini everywhere! And I love Russian blini. They are the thin crepe like pancakes that get smothered with cream, jam or sweeten condensed milk. Yummy! They even sell it on the streets in Moscow, with all the nice goopy stuff running onto your fingers and the sweet cooked smells wafting up around you!
It turns out that blini are actually used to represent the sun, which is the symbol of spring. The fact that this holiday comes right before the 40 of intense fasting in the Russian Orthodox Church is not 'coincidental'. The Russian Orthodox Church seems to be very supportive of this semi-pagan holiday as it helps to bring focus to the preparations of Lent.
As I cooked my own blini this weekend, I started contemplating the symbols of spring and the true purpose of Lent. Eating blini or not didn't make any difference in my desire to see winter end - as that is more due to the very low temperatures outside my apartment! However, it was actually rather rewarding after eating blini to remember the purposes of Lent.
I'm not a participant in Maslinitsa nor the Russian Orthodox 40 day fast, but I do know that laying aside something during this to celebrate the real purpose of Lent is an idea that resonates deep with me.
Perhaps I'll lay aside coffee?