From Barbara Partee on Facebook, a posting about a recent celebration of Maslenitsa she and Volodja had with friends (blini made by Volodja). Start with the food:
(shown here with sour cream and two kinds of caviar).
The food. From Wikipedia:
A blini (sometimes spelled bliny) or, rarely, blin … is a thin pancake, traditionally made from buckwheat flour and served with sour cream, butter, caviar, and other garnishes.
Some English dictionaries record usage of the forms blin as singular and blini or bliny as plural, which correspond to the originally Russian forms, but some dictionaries consider this usage so rare in English that they do not mention blin at all and only record the widespread modern regular usage of blini for the singular and blinis for the plural, for example the American Heritage, MacMillan, and Vocabulary.com dictionaries. Some cookbooks and restaurants use blin and blintchick as in Russian to refer to crêpes.
Blintzes [blinchik in Russian, similar to crêpes (French) or Palatschinken (German)] are apparently an offshoot (an evolved or variant form) of blini. They are thin pancakes usually made of wheat flour (not buckwheat), folded to form a casing (as for cheese or fruit) and then sautéed or baked.
(advice from one source: serve with melted butter, sour cream, at least two kinds of smoked fish, caviar if you wish, and strawberry jam)
The holiday. It’s a Slavic thing — in Volodja’s case, specifically Russian. From Wikipedia:
Maslenitsa (… also known as Butter Week, Crepe week, or Cheesefare Week), is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday, celebrated during the last week before Great Lent, that is, the eighth week before Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter). Maslenitsa corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday, and the Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date.
According to archeological evidence from 2nd century A.D. Maslenitsa may be the oldest surviving Slavic holiday. Maslenitsa has its origins in the pagan tradition. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun-festival, personified by the ancient god Volos, and a celebration of the imminent end of the winter. In the Christian tradition, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent.
During the week of Maslenitsa, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians, and it is the last week during which eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, leading to its name of “Cheese-fare week” or “Crepe week”. The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny thin pancakes or crepes, made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition that week: butter, eggs and milk.
Since Lent excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from spiritual life, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to take part in social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.
… [since the holiday comes in what is still winter in the Slavic lands] People may take off work and spend [a] day sledding, ice skating, snowball fights and with sleigh rides.
Maslenitsa, by Boris Kustodiev, 1919 (in the Isaak Brodsky Museum, St. Petersburg)