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    anglosphere /

    Газета School English #5, 2003

    Oily Week - Welcoming Spring

    Надежда Никифоровна Рогожина, проректор по международным программам, зав. кафедрой лингвистики и межъязыковой коммуникации Самарского Муниципального Университета Наяновой, кандидат педагогических наук, доцент.
        Dear Readers,

        the topic of my column today is inspired by my friend David Wright who in response to my description of Maslenitsa wrote about a similar custom which exists in England.

        This is the extract from his letter:

        “Our “Pancake Day” was last Tuesday - it is always a Tuesday, the day before “Ash Wednesday”, the beginning of Lent. Pancakes are traditionally eaten to use up leftover flour, etc, before the fast.

        The previous Monday also has a name which I have forgotten, and nobody I have asked has even heard of, but that is the day when remaining meat is supposed to be eaten up. I think that custom has all-but died out, but the supermarkets always sell extra lemon juice before Pancake Day. I forgot this year and coincidentally went for some lemon juice soon after only to find that they were sold out, so I got lime juice instead!’

        That reminded of one of my early Internet publications, in Monday Motivating Moments, a weekly e-magazine on Positive Thinking.

        This is the article:


        Russia, there is a customary ritual for seeing off Winter and welcoming Spring. It is called “Maslenitsa.” It is described in one of the most touching fairy tales in verse by A.N. Ostrovsky, “The Snow Maiden.” The whole week is dedicated to it. Each day of the week the people are supposed to do different things.

        On Monday, the people built snow hills, made a straw dummy of “Maslenitsa,” strolled along the streets with it. On Tuesday, the young men and girls slid down the snow hills, ate pancakes. On Wednesday, the mothers-in-law invited sons-in-law and treated them with pancakes. On Thursday, the people organised snowball fights, slid down the hills in sleds. On Friday, sons-in-law treated mothers-in-law with pancakes and asked mothers-in-law to teach their young wives to make pancakes. On Saturday, they put the straw dummy into the sleds and drove it along the streets with honours. On Sunday, there was the culmination of the week. The people asked each other to forgive all the bad habits and offences.

        The custom dates back to pagan times when the people believed in the supernatural powers of Nature. The ritual has been preserved till nowadays. The people get together in the squares as they used to gather (in the clearings in pagan times) and make a fire in the centre. They burn a straw dummy which symbolises Evil and make a circle around it, doing traditional dances and singing traditional songs. These songs have been collected by ethnographic expeditions to the old villages where the customs and traditions are preserved better. On this day (Sunday) the people eat pancakes (which symbolise the Sun) with butter or sunflower oil (“maslo”).

        Though there is a resurgence of religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter in Russia, this ancient pagan holiday has long existed and is celebrated with great pleasure.

        The people welcome Spring, which is a symbol of the renewal of both Nature and human beings. There are similar customs in other countries (throwing away old things on the New Year in Italy, etc.).

        The people need to draw a line through the past to go further, to build anew, to get rid of all bad things and thoughts. It is a good opportunity to think of the future, to welcome it!

        Welcome, Spring!


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    School English #6, 2011




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