Russian Pancake week called "Maslyanitsa" will be celebrated from Monday March 8th to Sunday March 14th.
Shrovetide is an ancient festival dating from pagan times. The Christian historians say that those were really "mad" days in the past. People wore funny masks and costumes, sometimes, men wore women's clothing and vice versa. Such masquerade anticipated a merry festival, when delicious food and a lot of wine were consumed. At first it was a festival that celebrated the arrival of spring and the start of work on the land. It included many rituals (burning a man of straw symbolizing winter, lighting fires, leaving festival food on the ancestors' graves) and feasts, the main food at which were bliny. The feast fighting was one more great fun that helped to get warm on cold winter days.
Later, the Orthodox Church included Shrovetide among its festivals. Shrovetide has lost its ritual significance and has become a symbolic festival of saying good-bye to winter and welcoming spring. At present special performances are held during Pancake week. Throughout the whole week people cook pancakes (bliny), symbol of the sun.