The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.
Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian
Мaсленица (Maslenitsa) is a pagan holiday still celebrated in Russia annually. In the week leading up to lent in which people make pancakes in copious amounts. Maslenitsa comes from the Russian word for butter (Мaслo, maslo). So many butter based foods, but primarily pancakes (Russian pancakes resemble crepes more than American pancakes, they are very thin). The pancake is actually a symbol of the sun in pagan culture. This celebration originates from pre-Christian times and is still celebrated today. It’s one of the few pagan traditions/holidays that Christianity did not get rid of.
Festivals are a universal occurrence in all cultures. The timing of them is always significant. It is my interpretation that Maslenitsa is intentionally held right before Lent, so that people can enjoy their indulgences before having to give them up for seven weeks. In addition, Russia is still in the middle of winter when lent occurs, so making warm, hearty pancakes is something everyone looks forward to in the months leading up to it.
For another description of this festival, see: http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=44139