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Maslenitsa: A week of pre-Lenten food and fun ends with Sunday’s celebration (photos) |

Maslenitsa: A week of pre-Lenten food and fun ends with Sunday’s celebration (photos)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The smiling face of the sun is perched atop a long stick, and Ekaterina Turichenko is tying colorful ribbons at the neck. Turichenko is pretty colorful herself, wearing a magenta hat trimmed in fur, matching silk blouse and embroidered fur-trimmed coat with wide sleeves that are close to five feet long. Turichenko, an active volunteer in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, made her clothes, and the outfits of many of the Russian people gathered at the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse to celebrate Maslenitsa.

“Blini, the shiny, buttery pancakes, symbolize the sun,” Turichenko explains in strongly accented English. “We eat them all week. Each day, they are stuffed with something different. But Sunday’s are the best. This is the last time we will eat them before Lent.”


Great Lent, in the Eastern Orthodox religion, is Monday. It begins 42 days of fasting, introspection, repentance and prayer.

Maslo is the Russian word for butter, and Maslenitsa, is sometimes called Butter Week. This week before Lent is full of the rich substance, along with cream and cheese. People dance, sing, enjoy music. Children play games. This is the final bit of revelry until Easter, which is April 7 this year.

Turichenko watches the line of visitors snaking out the door and onto the sidewalk, people waiting to buy blini and dumplings, caviar and pretzels. She sees her daughter, Sasha Hilliard, 6, getting her hair fixed by friend Elissa Mohamed, 9. Turichenko, the pro, takes over while Elissa watches. Turichenko quickly bands Sasha’s long, honey-blonde hair into a ponytail, then swooshes a lovely blue scarf over it and ties it under Sasha’s chin. She tops it off with a fur-trimmed blue hat, and Sasha’s outfit, completely sewn by mom, is complete.

Elissa and Sasha are eager to get outside to the games. “Maslenitsa is so much fun,” Elissa says, her red bead and cloth tiara, or kokoshnik, making her look a bit like a pink cheeked nesting doll. “You get pancakes, and lots of different things happen. My grandma makes blini with eggs and green onion,” she says, and the girls head out to the relay games, carrying felt ‘blini’ in skillets and running to pile them on a chair before the other team.

Oxana Dallas, from Moscow, is a graduate student at Kent State University, studying and making textiles. She is wearing a lovely tapestry coat, and she encourages visitors to choose Russian clothing from a rack and wear it for photos to remember the day. She also finds time to step away from her clothing tent to dance to traditional Russian music.

Dallas says that most of the clothing she collected is actually American made.

“American designers were inspired by Russian clothing in the 1960’s,” she says. I was able to find all of this here for next to nothing, and it looks so Russian,” she says as she dresses two Russian Cleveland Institute of Music students from Boston.

The three women chat and laugh in Russian, and Dallas never stops smiling.

“People here are so happy. Ninety percent of them have told me they have Russian blood,” she says. “It is so fun to see everyone and to share our culture. This is really something special.”

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