People celebrated the winter's end, prepared to greet the spring and waited for a strict fast, which will last until Easter.
Punish the guys
In the «tasty» week before the Great Fast, fun and folk music festivals were organized, where they baked pancakes and ate them with butter (maslo in Ukr.). Therefore the party is called Maslenitsa (Shrovetide in English). Even though the experts say this is not a Ukrainian authentic celebration as if borrowed from Russians and Belarusians. But on Ukrainian land, long before Shrovetide (Maslenitsa) Kolodiy has been celebrated, where the main course was vareniki with cottage cheese and cream fraiche.
This party is a symbol of fertility, marriage, love from man to woman. In ancient times, «older women» punished the young guys who did not find a partner and did not marry during the year. Therefore, the young men who were singles got a wooden block (koloda on Ukr. Therefore the party is also called Kolodiy) bound to one of their legs, which was made specially for this rite and braided it with ribbons. The guy had to pull the wooden block with him until he paid, that means, he should give a gift to the women. Such ceremonies were of educational significance, forced to think of the continuation of the family, called for the search for a bride.
Vareniki with cottage cheese and cream fraiche.
Every day in Shrovetide (Maslenitsa, Kolodiy) has some meaning, name and interesting customs. On the first day of the cheese week people went to visit each other and thought that those who stayed in the house on Monday would bury their household. On Tuesday, the fun games started, and the guys also looked for brides and girls that day – or the chosen one.
On Wednesday, mother-in-law took their son-in-law to guests and served them with pancakes, and to entertain them, and they gathered all relatives and friends. To this tradition is dedicated a large number of proverbs, jokes and songs. Exactly to Shrovetide (Maslenitsa) the term «go to mother-in-law after pancakes» was born. Shrovetide (Maslenitsa) was particularly «heavy» for the mother-in-law who had more than one daughter.
On Thursday people went out for all kinds of street competitions, fun fights, horse racing and tobogganing.
That the throat does not dry out
A very important stage at the celebration of Maslenitsa was Friday when the mother-in-law came to dinner in the son-in-law's house. It was not only mother-in-law who came to visit but also other relatives. The wife's mother should be treated so that her throat does not dry out. After receiving the invitation, the mother-in-law had to provide all the necessary things for preparing pancakes beforehand. Being condescending against this important and comfortable custom for relatives could in ols days be the wrath of the mother-in-law, dissatisfaction with relatives and condemnation of the whole community. It was not just a party, but a form of transfer of experience.
Then the son-in-law had to take his mother-in-law on a walk along the streets of the village or town.
Pancakes with honey.
On Saturday there were sisters' gatherings – the sister-in-law invited the man's sisters to pancakes, and they were treated, entertained, and received some gifts. And most beautiful celebrated was Sunday and it was called forgiveness. Especially for this day, Vareniki was made with cottage cheese, held a mass game, which symbolized farewell to the Shrovetide week and at the same time asked relatives for forgiveness for all insults.
In ancient times, people were convinced that it was Sunday night that the last convictions should take place, so religiously people attempted to leave the house as rarely as possible, remembered their own sins and drank no alcohol at all.
If only seven Sundays
Old ritual food for Ukrainians is vareniki. They looked like a young month, which symbolized the feminine. To make the moon contribute to the well-being of people, it received a gift in the form of vareniki. With their fill they looked like a pregnant woman, which means continuation of the family. Therefore, the main course of the pancake week was for our ancestors vareniki with cottage cheese and creme fraiche, and Sunday, when they ate, was called farmer's wife. People said, «Vareniki will make sure that they will not give you bread!» And when pancakes began to be fried to Shrovetide (Maslenitsa), the first symbol of the sun was meant to pay homage to the dead. Sometimes this pancake was given to the poor so they could also remember.
Also, jelly of pork, chicken or sheep's bone's were made, and therefore the week was also called «nozhkini zagovenya» (bone's Shrovetide). Particularly coveted were such legs of girls. They used them the following Monday to foretell – the girls threw them from the threshold to the gate. If they reached it – the girl would be healthy the next year, and if they flew over the gate – she would surely marry.
Jelly of pork.
After the last dinner, each family member took a boiled egg and smashed it on his forehead, crossed the threshold quickly and it was eaten. This was done so that the strict fast could quickly pass as soon as a man crossed the threshold.
There were no culinary restrictions this week because the Ukrainians prepared for the Easter fast, so they said, «Maslenitsa, Maslenitsa, how short you are – better if you were seven weeks – and the faste one».
Translation by Joergen Deleuran