What better way then to start with a carnival type holiday, one that had been banned for nearly 85 years.

From my quick research February 27th is the first day of Maslenitsa…

Which is a Russian holiday that has both pagan and Christian lineage.  As all religious holidays, it was forbidden during the Communist reign but has been making a come back since 2002.

This is a time to celebrate both the ending of winter for one tradition and the last chance to indulge before Lent in the other.  Both of these lead to enjoying ones self.  There seems to be a lot of emphasis on blini, a Russian pancake.  Being golden and round, it represents the sun and from some of the sources looks like the name could derive from butter, a staple of the pancake toppings.

There seems to be a number of different things to do during this time other than eating just blini, masquerades, snowball fights, sleigh rids and even fist fighting.  All of these in good fun of course.  In addition a lot of attention is placed on young couples or the lack of young being a couple, with logs draped around the necks of singe men and women and newly weds having to kiss in public.

I did find reference to this also being a sort of Halloween as well with things done to appease the spirits of those who have passed, even inviting them to dinner if only in a ceremonial way.

 The end of the festival is referred to as The Day of Forgiveness or Forgiveness Sunday.  This is the time when you ask to be forgiven by all those around you and of God.  Also the end is marked by the burning of a straw effigy of Maslenitsa and/or the tossing of a young girl dressed as Maslenitsa into the snow, this also marks the beginning of Lent.Some of the links I found

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslenitsa

http://www.maslenitsa.com/english/

http://goeasteurope.about.com/od/russia/a/maslenitsa.htm

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