Maslenitsa is a pagan holiday that occurs during the last week before the Great Lent. You can’t eat anything fun during Great Lent — no meat, no dairy products, no wine, etc. While it is celebrated over the course of week, today we went to a school celebration that combined all the fun activities into one day. Activities such as pillow fighting, sack racing, and sleigh riding! Today is the day where Orthodox Christians will ask God for forgiveness. Depending on how un-orthodox you are, you can also ask God to get rid of the consequences of the preceding Saturday night. Sunday is also the day where they burn the chuchela, a wooden doll, which is supposed to signify the end of winter and the coming of spring. Even though they burned that thing to a crisp, I don’t think that spring is coming anytime soon.
Roma took me to his former elementary school, where they hold a Maslenitsa celebration every year. While hordes of children ran around and played the various games they had, we walked around, ate pancakes, and drank tea with cognac. Later, we went dog sledding (yes, again), and they filmed us! I’ll be on TV again, and there will be another terrible interview of me. I can’t speak Russian when I’m nervous. Don’t judge me.
Something that I have noticed: Russians like to hang outside even if it’s cold out. Yes, Ukhta is experiencing an unusual heatwave, and it was a toasty -7 C outside today. That said, I would not rush to label that warm weather, and I often opt not to stay outside for a few hours when it’s below freezing. However, I have noticed that people here seem to have no problem being out and about when it’s (quite) nippy out. For the longest time, I didn’t understand how they could do that and just assumed that Russians are just naturally immune to the cold. Then, today, I found out the secret to being outside for hours at a time.
Not vodka, but cognac. Tea also works, but cognac gets the job done faster, better, and in a more interesting manner. For example, as Roma and I were casually walking around, one of the women working at the festival handed us tea and cognac. Tea and cognac! And when we were in the woods waiting for our turn to go dog sledding, a mutual friend just whips out her personal bottle of cognac from her purse. In the North, you have to do what you have to do to stay warm. If you don’t want to spend the majority of the year inside because of the cold, bust out that bottle.