Maslenitsa Celebration

Maslenitsa Celebration



prize ancient celebration
grand custom come back
kettle mark (2) traditional
rather festivity win/won/won
bustle feature celebrate
giant wooden drive/drove/driven
birch get away take place
allure take in monumental
create setting space (2)
rare feature drive out
crepe inspire samovar
boil dish (2) pancake
coal scale (3) inspiration
origin strange supposed to
bribe mischief cottage cheese
filling warmth departed (2)
cream ancestor mushroom
climax fast (2) high-point
setting bonfire enormous
climb cottage Bastille
pallet curious build/built/built
tower wind (2) mean/meant/meant
usual turn out bring/brought/brought
blin cool (2) underway




Maslenitsa is all about sun, fun and games. It’s the Russian celebration to drive out the long, cold winter and welcome the warmth of spring.

Traditional . . . sporty . . . and strange. The customs are ancient; the prizes, modern, like an electric kettle.

Participant, Male, One: “Tree climbing is traditional. This is my tenth time. Even if I’d much rather win a television or a microwave instead of a kettle.”

Game Host: “One, two, three, GO!”

Spectator: “This is a real cock fight. It’s about life and death.”

Participant Female, two: “Let’s see which one of us girls is the coolest.”

Maslenitsa is celebrated all over Russia.

The festivities are particularly beautiful in Nikola-Lenivets, a three-and-a-half hour drive from Moscow. Nikola-Lenivets is a nature park featuring giant wooden sculptures in the middle of a Russian birch forest.

It’s a magical place for anyone who wants to get away from the bustle of the Russian capital, and take in the allure of this monumental setting featuring art outside the gallery. That’s rare in Russia, even though there’s plenty of space for it.

Nikolay Polissky, Artist: “We live in a very big country, with so much space that everyone could create art on a grand scale. I want to inspire other artists with my work.”

While we’re looking at a samovar, we’ll return to Maslenitsa. An electric kettle has no place here. The water is boiled over hot coals to serve tea with blinis, the main Maslenitsa dish.

Also known as blintses, pancakes or crepes, good blinis need butter — or maslo in Russian. That’s the origin of the word Maslenitsa: the Butter Celebration.

Female Participant, three: “Everyone needs to eat the blinis with butter. You’re supposed to bribe your departed ancestors so they don’t come back and cause mischief!”

Female Participant, four: “We only want good things to happen, so we eat lots of blinis and butter.”

Blini Cook: “I make up to six hundred blinis a day. It’s no problem. The fillings are different: cream cheese, meat, chicken or mushrooms. I like them best with cottage cheese.”
The celebrations are well underway. We’re moving towards the high-point of the week, after which Russian Orthodox Christians fast until Easter.

An enormous bonfire marks the climax of the event. Wooden pallets have been used to build what’s called the “Bastille”.

Like all the other sculptures here, it’s a work of Nikolay Polissky. Burning the tower is meant to bring freedom and happiness.

Nikolay Polissky, Artist: “I’m curious about how it’s going to burn! Nobody knows what’s going to happen to my Bastille today, because the wind is stronger than usual. No one knows how it will turn out.”

The burning Bastille tower is a great picture for some; for others, it’s a moment of inspiration or reflection.

The event closes with a surprise that tops everything that’s gone before it: Russia’s mighty winter is now over, and spring can come.

Soon, other celebrations will take place in Nikola-Lenivets, in a greener setting.


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1. Maslenitsa celebrates snowfall and snow. True or false?

2. Are there many games and sporting events?

3. Masletnitsa is only celebrated in Nikola-Lenivets. Is this right or wrong? Is Nikola-Lenivets a big city?

4. Are there lots of artwork and decorations? Give examples.

5. “An electric kettle has no place here.” What does this mean?

6. The the main foods are fish, crab, shrimp, squid and octopus. Is correct or incorrect? Are the pancakes cooked, served and eaten plain?

7. What is the highlight of the Maslenitsa festival? What does the bonfire signify?


A. In my country we celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring. Yes or no? How is it celebrated?

B. Are pancakes or crepes popular? How are they eaten?

C. Is tea a popular drink?

D. Do people like campfires or fires in fireplaces?

E. How do people increase good luck, success and prosperity?

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