It is necessary to say goodbye to the winter and meet the long-awaited spring with songs, delicious food and folk rituals. Belarus is an ideal place to travel during Maslenitsa Week, which runs from February 20th to February 26th.
Maslenitsa is one of the most ancient Slavic holidays. It began to be celebrated eight weeks before Easter. Butter and cheese are the obligatory attributes of this holiday. Besides, what is Maslenitsa without pancakes? During Maslenitsa Week, pancakes acquired a truly royal significance — people tried to eat them every day. Cooking butter, sour cream, honey, jam, fish, caviar, cabbage — everyone wrapped everything in pancakes that his or her heart desires. Each day of the festive week was special, requiring certain actions. In addition, Forgiveness Sunday was the very culmination of the whole Maslenitsa Week. On this day, family members asked each other for forgiveness for all the troubles and wrong commited during the year. The most long-awaited moment of the holiday was the burning of the effigy of Maslenitsa, which personified all the dark and negative that was in people’s lives. The holiday ended with jumping over the fire. Today, Maslenitsa traditions are not so strong, but this holiday is still bright, noisy and cheerful. The celebration of Maslenitsa calls to wake up after hibernation and prepare for a new spring, and therefore a new life.
The Belarusian State Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Lifestyle lurks just a few kilometres from the noisy capital. In fact, this is a real village from the past: original wooden huts of the late 19th-early 20th century were brought here from different regions of the country. There is a church, a mill and a tavern. But the main thing is that the museum staff celebrate traditional Belarusian holidays with amazing scrupulousness.
Maslenitsa [Maslenka in Belarusian] is no exception. What day of the week did you go to your mother-in-law for pancakes? Why was ‘grandfather buried’ on the holiday? Why were ‘wooden decks’ hung around the neck of unmarried guys? Reconstruction of folk rituals will help to find answers to all questions. The programme also includes master classes from artisans, a pole with prizes and, of course, a spectacular burning of a scarecrow.
The famous museum complex of ancient crafts and technologies is famous for its incredible tastings. There is even a motto for the holiday: ‘Whoever comes to Maslenitsa in Dudutki will definitely get his or her treat’. Every hour they promise to meet dear guests. Adults — with drinks, children — with sweet. Pancakes, stewed fruit and berries, potato pancakes.
There is plenty of entertainment as well! Pillow fights, mace tossing, speed riding on wooden horses, bagel games, wall to wall. A humorous interactive called MaslenitsaWooden Decks will be held for single guys and girls.The kids will love outdoor games — quart, balance, cone ball, labyrinth. They will even teach historical fencing. But before burning the effigy, everyone will have to sweat and find a fire.
In the interactive history park, they relied on an entertaining quest. The theme is the struggle between Winter and Spring, in which all the guests become participants. Each point is an immersion in rituals and ancient traditions with a visit to unusual locations.
The territory of the park is huge: there is something to marvel at, something to see — from the pagan temple to the castle of Mindovg. Cheerful buffoons are responsible for the musical part. One can take a sleigh ride with the breeze and try branded drinks (all-inclusive). For an additional fee — one can try a special lunch made according to the recipes of chefs of the 16th century.
The Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve
If you want to spend a holiday in nature, but without a noisy crowd, you are welcome to the wilderness on the border of Minsk and Vitebsk Regions. The Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve is a specially protected natural area of the highest rank. The Centre for Mythological Tourism is also located here, which includes the Museum of Mythology and the ‘In the Land of Myths’ eco-trail.
The Maslenitsa animation tour promises treats in nature, rituals and outdoor games. The main feature is acquaintance with the inhabitants of the reserve. The mighty bison Valera, the Umka and Vasilisa bears, the red deer Volodya, and the cute pony called Ponchik will not leave anyone indifferent.
The Dukorsky Estate Museum Complex
Celebrations in the spirit of the nobility are held in Dukora. Organised groups are waiting for Maslenitsa to surprise with unusual entertainment. The mythical Hatnik will tell you how to prepare for the holiday. And the artisans will teach how to make a Morena doll — it serves as a prototype for a stuffed animal, which is then burned. There will be a Batleika with live music, britzka riding, excursions and refreshments.
In their free time, visitors can look into a local landmark — an upside down house. And also ask for strength from a four-hundred-year-old oak tree and admire the local collection of vintage cars.
By Sofia Arsenyeva Photos by Aleksey Stolyarov, Anton Stepanishchev