This Russian Food Festival Is Dedicated To One Breakfast Staple

When you think of Russia, you may not immediately picture delectable breakfast foods. However, plenty of the country's popular morning dishes can rival those of the best international cuisines you've tasted. One specialty is crunchy waffle tubes filled with Russian caramel, better known to some as dulce de leche (via Russia Beyond). Another signature dish is oladyi, tiny but thick pancakes made from soured milk, according to 196 Flavors. But one breakfast delight is so honored in Russia that its people celebrate it with an entire week-long festival.

The Russian early spring festival of Maslenitsa, translated as "Pancake Week" or "Dairy Week" in other languages (via 56th Parallel), is celebrated in many Slavic cultures. While the holiday starts in March when it is still chilly, it is known as a commemoration of the change in seasons and a tribute to the sun, explains Russia Beyond. And what better food than a glorious breakfast pleasure, which happens to be warm and round like the sun, for the Russians to honor its rays? Blinis (or thin, crepe-like pancakes), of course!

During Maslenitsa, blinis are life

The name Maslenitsa comes from "maslo," the Russian word for butter, and the festival is known for plenty of indulgence, says NPR. Fittingly, blinis are not eaten plainly: Anything but boring, they're often "drenched in butter" or topped with mouthwatering additions including jams, fruits, sour cream, and caviar. The recipe for the pancakes themselves varies widely, according to Russia Beyond, but the fillings are always sweet or savory and very substantial. "Everyone goes crazy with the buttered food," Russian history professor Anton Fedyashin told NPR, adding that it's customary to eat blinis "as often as possible" during Maslenitsa.

Besides pancakes, the celebrations also include sleigh rides, snowball fights, and even dancing bears. At the end of the festival, which comes right before Lent, celebrators ask forgiveness from family, neighbors, and friends whom they treated poorly over the previous year.

However, in the end, Maslenitsa is a party all about the blini. Take it from a Russian proverb that says, "Even the most cold-hearted person loves hot blini" (via Russian Life).