The Huntsville Languages and Cultures Exchange Group Message Board General Discussions › MASLENITSA! Russian / East-European "Pancake Festival"

MASLENITSA! Russian / East-European "Pancake Festival"

Jim Z.
Huntsville, AL
Post #: 3

Russian/Eastern European “Pancake Festival” Returns to Huntsville!

HUNTSVILLE, ALA: It’s not often that those in North Alabama/Southern Middle Tennessee region have a taste of Eastern European culture, but at least one day a year, they can visit the UAHuntsville campus to immerse themselves in an Eastern Orthodox Lenten celebration, sample traditional foods, enjoy authentic regional folksongs and folkdances, and experience firsthand the culture of the Russians, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Kazaks, and more. It’s a great way to savor the richness and diversity of our Eastern European heritage.

In 2012, the International Society of Huntsville (ISH), the UAHuntsville Library, and community representatives from Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine launched their first-ever salute to the Eastern Orthodox celebration known as MASLENITSA by sponsoring a brunch―in 2013, it returns, but in a greatly expanded form:

MASLENITSA―A Russian/Eastern European “Pancake Festival” will run from 9:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 16 March in the Charger Brew Café/First Floor area of the M. Louis Salmon Library.

The library’s parking lot is located at 4600 Holmes Avenue, NW (between Jordan Lane and Sparkman Drive, west of Ben Graves Drive) on the UAHuntsville campus.

Admission to the event is $5 for the general public; admission is free to UAHuntsville students (with Charger ID) and for children under twelve. Please note the MASLENITSA meal itself will be $5.00 per plate for all attendees.

By definition, MASLENITSA is a family event―and the ISH festival will be no exception. Moreover, it’s open to the public. Though associated with Lent, it is not a solemn occasion; rather, it is a celebration, purportedly Russia’s oldest surviving holiday.

Also known as Cheesefare Week, Butter Week, or Pancake Week, MASLENITSA takes place during the seven days prior to Great Lent; its name is rooted in the Russian word for butter or oil, “Maslo.”

Though it will remind one of Carnival, Fasching, or Mardi Gras, MASLENITSA is associated with Eastern Orthodox, rather than Roman, Catholicism. Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday, instead of Wednesday, and this year, MASLENITSA runs from 11 – 17 March, leading to the timing of the Saturday festival.

The key symbol of MASLENITSA, one might even say the mascot, is the buckwheat-based “blini” (think “blintz”). Blini, with their round, golden warmth, hearken back to the sun and are thus harbingers of spring. Closer to crêpes than to everyday flapjacks as most Americans know them, blini may be eaten straight, with extra ingredients incorporated in the batter, while plain versions are topped, or filled and rolled, with various “condiments.”

Blini garnishes will be provided at the Toppings Table and will range from honey, sour cream, sugar, and condensed milk to maple syrup, jam, jelly, and homemade cottage cheese. Food service will begin at 9:30 a.m.

In addition to blini, this year’s bill of fare boasts Olivier Salad (a popular Eastern European specialty), pelmeni (a.k.a. “Russian Ravioli”), and East European desserts such as medovnik, or honey cake. Beverages include hot/cold black or green tea, coffee, water, and kvass, a fermented, low-alcohol product that is treated as a soft drink. Sugar or jam will be available at the Toppings Table for the hot drinks. But MASLENITSA boasts more than an expanded menu:

This year’s festival will ratchet up the fun with a vendors’ area, an exciting roster of “new-to-Huntsville” performers, and several free children’s activities.

Satiate your Slavic desires with the delicious fare from European Market Anastasia (e.g. Korkunov and Alyonka chocolates, fresh-baked breads, pysanky supplies), then pore over the local and imported wares of area craftspeople and merchants, including members of the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (Brookside, AL). All participants will accept cash or checks.

Performers Val Bratu (Romanian Keyboardist; Russian folksongs) and his Lido Band; Alla “Alika” Melnik and Naum Koyfman (Ukrainian Bayan players; Russian, Ukrainian, and other folksongs); and “Chervona Kalyna” (Natalliya Russo’s Slavic Dance Group; traditional folkdances) will take us on a tuneful tour through the Old Country.

For those unfamiliar with the instruments, bayans are the East European take on the button accordion; for those unfamiliar with the words, you need not speak a language to dance to it!

Kids and adults can enjoy balloon art, puppet shows, Russian Karaoke, Kokoshnik (“Russian Crowns”) workshops, hair braiding, face painting, Russian language quizzes and games, and various hands-on art classes. Russian cartoons will run continuously in the N1 Section of the library, in the older wing just past the café.

Participants will be able to boost their worldly knowledge by visiting Room 111, where they can view video/PowerPoint educational displays on the nations constituting the former USSR. They include: Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania); Eastern Europe (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine); Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia); Russia; and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan).

PLEASE NOTE, attendees are requested to RSVP IN ADVANCE at rsvp@internationalsocietyofhuntsville.or­g in order to ensure everyone can be served! The deadline is 14 March. Once there, attendees may pay at the door with cash or check.

Further info is available by contacting Olga Osdacii at (256) 585-8354 / or Maria Kimpe at (979) 324-4834.



In 2007, the International Society of Huntsville was formed with the following mission: “To promote the International Community of North Alabama through cultural, educational, and social programming.” You can follow ISH on Facebook or visit http://internationals...­.

It is the goal of the Society to establish a permanent International Festival for the City of Huntsville along the scale of those in Birmingham and Mobile. North Alabama is the cradle of Alabama’s confluence of foreign-born citizens that contribute to the region’s diversity and its wealth of world views and experiences that in turn give rise to varied ideas, perspectives, knowledge, and skills—social ingredients that make North Alabama prosperous while enhancing the area’s Quality of Life.


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