In culture class our teacher Gulia told us about these two very historical towns that were a major part of Russia’s history. She showed us a few pictures and explained a few things then she said we will go there to see and participate in the ending celebration of Pancake Week. So let me first explain this pancake week to you.
Starting on February 28th until March 6th Russia celebrates with a festival called Pancake Week which is to symbolize the end of the cold, dark, dreadful winter and welcome in the bright and happy spring. They use the pancake to symbolize the sun since it is round and gold just like the sun. So all week we were waiting for all this excitement and hype about pancake week and all the pancakes we were going to get and it was nothing special during the week really. Then we were told that the school was having a festival on Saturday and we were welcome to come and join in the celebration and be a part of a Russian tradition. Well Saturday was a cold and snowy day but we still wanted to go and see the festival. So we bundled up and headed to school soccer field to see what was going on. It was so fun and interesting. A lot of people were dressed up in brightly colored outfits and the women were wearing brightly colored scarves and hats. There were games going on like tug-a-war, and stand that had balls on top and you had to try and knock them over with snowballs. Then they had this balance beam where two people would fight each other with a pillow case full of foam and whoever fell off the beam lost. Lexi and Jessica went up against each other and Madi and Daphne went against each other. I would have gone against my head teacher but I was afraid I would have dropped the pillow case and just hit her (see story to come later). They had traditional Russian music playing and everyone was just dancing and having a really good time. And the best part was all the free blini (pancakes), pastries, juice and tea. The blini’s are amazing. They are a really, really thin pancake that they fill with cream cheese, jam, apple filling or meat. I avoided the meat ones!
Then came the best and the craziest tradition the Russians have associated with this festival. It’s called burning the ‘lady of winter’ which basically means light a figure on fire to symbolize the end of winter. So they make this huge statue made from straw and put it on top of a huge snow bank and then took a torch and started it on fire. It was crazy to watch but also very fun to see and hear everyone cheering and enjoying themselves. After the burning of the ‘lady of winter’ was done everyone started to head home but we weren’t quite ready yet so the DJ put on some American music and basically we just danced around in the empty soccer field by ourselves while everyone looked and laughed and cheered us on. Some people were taking pictures of us and a few people wanted their picture taken with us, which was nice and made us feel like they really do like us! We finally headed home to warm up and pack for our weekend vacation to Vladimir and Suzdal Russia!