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Pagan origins of Pancake Day

Culture Syndicates > Exploring history  > Pagan origins of Pancake Day

Pagan origins of Pancake Day

‘There is no Maslenitsa without pancakes’ – popular Russian folk saying

Originally, pancakes were made during Shrovetide Week as part of the celebration of the coming of spring and the sun.

Pagans thought that the change between these seasons was a struggle between Jarilo; the God of vegetation, fertility and springtime, and the evil spirits of cold and darkness. They believed they had to help Jarilo in this battle in order to bring in the spring.

The most important part of Shrovetide Week was the making and eating of pancakes – hot round cakes that symbolised the power, light and warmth of the sun.

The first pancake was usually put by the window for the spirits of the ancestors, while at the end of the week, the last pancakes were burnt (along with other food) in a bonfire: in sacrifice to the Pagan Gods.

Also known as Maslenitsa, Butter Week, Crepe week or Cheesefare Week, this celebration is said to be one of the merriest holidays.

​By Elsa Trueman, Resilience Syndicate Intern at Ayscoughfee Hall Museum and Gardens

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