2022 was declared the Year of the Cultural Heritage of the Peoples of Russia. The goal of the Cultural Heritage year is to popularize folk art and preserve cultural traditions, historical and cultural monuments, ethnocultural diversity, and cultural identity of all peoples and ethnic communities of the Russian Federation.
Russia is a multinational country with more than 190 different peoples, each of which has its own culture, customs and traditions. Every year, events dedicated to national culture are held in all regions of Russia. These can be local festive events, exhibitions and master classes, concerts of amateur artists, folk crafts fairs, and large-scale ethnic festivals, where participants and guests are from many regions of Russia, as well as countries from different parts of the world.
One of such annual mass events is the Tatar Sabantuy, a labor holiday in which the beautiful customs of the Tatars, their songs, dances and, of course, delicious dishes of national cuisine are intertwined. Sabantuy is an ancient holiday that used to be celebrated at the end of April as a sign of the beginning of field work, and nowadays it is celebrated in June, in honor of the end of field work.
In the old days, the celebration of Sabantuy was a big event, and preparation for it took a long time. The holiday has not lost its importance today: it is held not only in villages, districts, cities of the Republic of Tatarstan, but also in Moscow, St. Petersburg, in many regions of Russia, as well as in different parts of the world where Tatar communities live. It is a pleasure to hear from Malaysians that when visiting Russia they managed to take part in the Sabantuy celebration, immersing themselves in the holiday atmosphere, taking vivid photos and tasting one of the national delicacies – honey chak-chak.
And the Udmurts, the Finno-Ugric people of Russia, in honor of the successful completion of sowing and the end of field work, held the Gerber, a feast of thanksgiving of the earth. During the holiday, the youths looking for brides, demonstrated their dexterity and strength, and the girls tried to showcase their beauties in the best outfits. Nowadays, the holiday is held in the Republic of Udmurtia, as well as in various cities of Russia and, of course, in Moscow. Malaysian citizens can be attracted by the Gerber holiday with a special national flavor: folk songs, original dances, variety and beauty of national costumes, delicious dishes of national cuisine.
But if these two national mass celebrations are traditionally held in June, then at the moment in Russia, as well as abroad, where Russian-speaking citizens live, they are preparing to celebrate one of the favourite national holidays – Maslenitsa (Shrovetide week).
When the word “Maslenitsa” is used, many foreign citizens clearly associate it with Russian pancakes, tea, round dances and songs. But this joyful holiday of the Eastern Slavs is much more complicated semantically. In fact, this is not actually one holiday, but a week long holiday that starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. In the old days, every day of the Shrovetide week was accompanied by its own rituals, for example:
On Monday, known during the Shrovetide week as the “Meeting”/ “Welcoming”: the folk festivities began with preparation of ice slides, swings and installation of booths. In the evening, the mother-in-law visited the young family to teach the daughter-in-law to bake pancakes
On Tuesday, «Game»/ «Merrymaking», young guys and girls were looking for a couple. To do this, they arranged long walks
On Wednesday, the “Dainty“/ “Sweet-Tooth Day”, sons-in-law came to their mothers-in-law for pancakes. The custom was strictly observed
On Thursday, the “Wide Maslenitsa”, after family gatherings, people rushed to the square, where swings were installed and festivities were organized
On Friday – “Mother-in-law’s Evening”: the sons-in-law had to prepare a return treat for the mothers-in-law, a festive dinner with the family
On Saturday, “Sister-in-law’s gatherings”, the daughter-in-law invited her husband’s relatives, his sisters and their families to pancakes. Gathering together, the women sang special ritual songs
Every day of Shrovetide week has its own meaning and is not often observed in modern Russian society, but the last day of Shrovetide is Sunday, “Seeing Off Shrovetide”, is celebrated almost everywhere. At home, housewives bake pancakes for their family and invited guests, and at organized mass festivities, an effigy of Maslenitsa made of straw and fabric, which personifies winter, is necessarily burned. This is how people see off winter and meet spring.
There are four seasons in Russia: winter begins in December and ends in February, spring lasts from March to May inclusive, June – August are the summer months beloved by all Russians, and autumn is from September to November. Maslenitsa does not have a specific date in the calendar: every year it falls on different days of the winter-spring period, in 2022 the Maslenitsa week will begin on February 28 and end on March 6.
“Today, on the first day of Maslenitsa (Shrovetide week), we tried to introduce Malaysian citizens to the festive culture of the peoples of Russia as superficially as possible. The conversation about the traditions of the peoples of Russia, their customs and rituals, is so interesting that it can last for a long time, moving from the meaning of rituals to their reflection by famous Russian artists, writers and composers. This is a rich cultural heritage that is passed down from generation to generation,” it is noted in the press release of the Russian House in Kuala Lumpur.