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14 Feb, 2010 11:38

Winter-burning festival gains momentum in Moscow

Eating pancakes and setting fire to straw dummies - these are the favorite pastimes during the Maslenitsa festival, which is wrapping up in the Russian capital.

As the party entered its final day, a large festive parade has been held in the heart of Moscow, with marchers including actors in costumes dressed as fairy-tales characters, folk heroes and comic minstrels. Also, spectators have been welcomed to join the parade. The carnival ended at the Vasilievsky Spusk, right next to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, where the “Maslenitsa Town” had been set up during the festival week.

On the improvised streets of the town, visitors could taste traditional Russian “bliny” – the Russian word for pancakes – with all types of fillings, which traditionally range from red caviar to jam and sour cream. Also, hot beverages were offered to festival guests to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures.

A variety of entertainment has been taking place in public parks across the city during the festival. People of all ages, from children to adults, were engaged in slippery-sliding, fun contests and, of course, pancake eating.

With the celebrations, Russians hope to bring on the spring, with the warm golden pancakes symbolizing the sun. The climax of the festival has been setting fire to dummies made of straw, which represent winter.

And the burning of a dummy in the Maslenitsa Town has been something very special.

“Since it’s prohibited to make bonfires within the city proper, we will burn the dummy using special effects and it will turn from ugly old winter to beautiful young spring,” city authorities said prior to the show.

Moscow’s Maslenitsa festival is officially on the list of the world’s most famous festivals and the list of European and world holidays.