The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Shrovetide (Pancake Week)

The Russian name of the holiday is Maslenitsa. It has always been one of the merriest and most popular holidays; originally a pagan rite of celebrating the end of winter, it later became a part of Christian traditions. It is celebrated during the last week before the Great Lent (which begins on a Monday).

An old custom says it is necessary to please Maslenitsa, which means to celebrate it with great merriment. Part and parcel of the festive table during the week are Russian pancakes, symbolizing the sun. According to a popular saying, “There is no Maslenitsa without pancakes.”  In the old days, among the most popular entertainments of the Pancake Week were tobogganing and skating, fisticuffs and snow-ball fights, storming a snow fortress, riding on the swings etc. Maslenitsa was mostly a young people’s holiday, and the holiday itself was associated with youth and cheerfulness, as it marked the beginning of spring.

At Yasnaya Polyana, they always had a merry celebration of the Pancake Week, with its traditional games, dancing and singing. Folk music could be heard not only in the village, but also at the estate, and in Tolstoy’s house. Leo Tolstoy appreciated folk songs very highly, and enjoyed listening to them. His daughters Tatiana and Maria sang the songs that were popular among local peasants and sometimes danced the Russian Dance, and the writer’s son Mikhail was a good balalaika player.  

The present-day celebration of Maslenitsa at Yasnaya Polyana takes place on the last day of the Pancake Week – the Sunday of Forgiveness. It includes concerts, traditional games and various contests and culminates in the ritual of burning the straw personification of Maslenitsa.
 
 
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