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Campus and Community Invited to Celebrate Maslenitsa


by Sarah Geegan
The UK campus and Lexington community are invited to celebrate a different kind of Mardi Gras this year.
Russian Mardi Gras, or Maslenitsa, is the Carnival holiday that celebrates the pre-Lenten season before the traditional 40-day fast begins. As part of the College of Arts and Sciences' initiative, "Reimagining Russia's Realms," an event will offer the community a taste of this important Russian cultural tradition on Saturday,  Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center.
Benefitting the UK Russian Education Abroad Scholarship Fund, the evening will include an arrangement of traditional foods, a silent auction, as well as a vodka tasting, for participants of appropriate age.
Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby, chair of the Department of Modern & Classical Languages Literatures & Cultures is among the three main organizers of the Year of Russia initiatives. She said that the food served at the event would mirror Maslenitsa culinary traditions.
"'Maslenitsa' means 'Butter Week,' because the traditional foods are all dairy-based no meat is eaten the week before Lent," Rouhier-Willoughby said. "The primary food is crepes, a thin pancake stuffed or topped with fish or dairy products. The menu at the Lyric celebration will reflect this tradition--sweet and savory crepes with fish, dairy products and jams. Catering will be by Dupree Catering."
Maslenitsa traditionally marks the end of winter. In the 19th century, villages would light bonfires and burn the "effigy of winter" to drive it away. In modern cities they often have such celebrations at public parks, with traditional Maslenitsa games and a burning of winter in effigy. Rouhier-Willoughby said that Maslenitsa often also featured wrestling contests and sleigh rides as well. While masking is not traditional in Russia, because it is in the American tradition, attendees should feel free to wear Mardi Gras finery or masks to the event.
"The event's invitation has a bonfire to represent the burning of winter, and we will toast the end of winter and beginning of spring," she said.
Co-sponsored by the UK International Center and Education Abroad, the event is being held at the Lyric, as part of a concerted effort to include the entire community in the Year of Russia's Realms events.
"We want everyone to be able to celebrate the history and richness of Russian culture, so chose a historic site related to Lexington's rich past," Rouhier-Willoughby said.
Tickets to the event are $25 each and can be purchased on site in cash or by credit card; however, reservations must be made in advance by February 11.
Please RSVP to Kari Burchfield at or 859-257-1994