May 22 2013 Latest news:
Friday, March 15, 2013
London’s Russian community is aiming to show the capital how to celebrate Pancake Day in style.
The Maslenitsa Festival, the Sun Festival of Russian culture, is a centuries old celebration of the end of winter and the arrival of the brighter months.
Tomorrow, Trafalgar Square will play host to traditional folk dancing and singing, a bazaar and an array of tempting Eastern food and drink.
Entry is free and there are plenty of family activities to enjoy from 1.30pm until 6.30pm.
At this time of year, Russians pile blini pancakes high with delicacies like caviar and smoked salmon and feast on meats and cheeses before the traditional fasting period preceding Easter.
This final knees-up before a week of intense spirituality is accompanied by bizarre rituals back in the mother country.
Group fist-fights, vast bonfires and performing bears are traditional, but those celebrating here in London may have to make do with tamer alternatives.
Sabir Suleyman is the owner of Russian restaurant Sobranie in Victoria, which will be fully involved in the festivities.
He wants to prove to the Brits that “Russians are not just those people that eat potatoes, drink vodka and live with bears. We can show London a great party and lots of traditions and culture”.
This religious feast day was banned under the strict laws of Communist Russia when the Party was elevated to the status of a deity and no religious competition was allowed.
Although people still celebrated secretly in their homes, it is only recently that Maslenitsa has become an epic feature on the international Russian calendar once again.
This year, revellers in London will be able to join Muscovites via a live video link to the capital - and forging that link between the past and present of Russians now living in London is an important feature of the celebration.
Sabir’s wife, Medea, runs workshops for the children of Russian parents living in London. The couple’s restaurant sponsored a contest in which the top prize was the chance for a group of London youngsters to perform in Trafalgar Square this weekend.
Together with a group of adults, Medea shows the children how to read and write in their ancestral language, and encourages them to perform and sing traditional folk songs.
She said: “It is very important to keep the language and the culture because not many people will be going back to Russia; they live here now, their children go to school here, and so of course English becomes their first language.
“That’s the main reason why we organize these sorts of celebrations: to make them a part of it, and to make them understand their culture.”