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The religious celebrations last three weeks — it starts with Vseednaya Week with no limitations on food; then comes Ryabaya Week (freckled) with alternating ferial and fasting days; and culminates with what is known as Maslenitsa Week, or Cheese Week, when only dairy products are allowed.
Every day of the last week has its own name and a particular set of rituals — but they are rarely observed in Russia today. On Monday, people welcomed Maslenitsa by singing songs and making a straw-stuffed effigy of Lady Maslenitsa. Tuesday was for young people to go out and play. Wednesday was for devouring pancakes and sweets. Thursday was full of friendly fistfights and other physical activities. On Friday, people visited relatives and Sunday was when the effigy was burned.
Probably the oldest surviving Slavic tradition, Soviet Russia had ensured that the festival was not officially celebrated — though families observed it in a subdued manner without its religious significance while using it as an opportunity to make pancakes and crepes and share them with friends. It was only during Perestroika that outdoor celebrations resumed.
The climax of the carnival atmosphere involves singing, dancing, mock battles and jumping through fires besides gorging on food. Interestingly, even though Russians do not abstain from meat because of the increasing secularization and shashlik vendors are seen thronging the streets during the carnival, meat does not play an important role in the festival.
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It sure does look like a huge funeral pyre or maybe a building complex going up in flames, but it is, in fact, Russian revelers looking at a sculpture of a burning bridge — the theme for this year — at the art park in Nikola-Lenivets village, about 125 miles southwest of Moscow on Feb. 29, while celebrating Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, to mark the end of winter.
Dating back to pagan times, Maslenitsa began as a celebration of life and death. Matchmaking was once a key part of the festival: Young couples would come together with their families to prepare for a wedding after Lent. It also gave people a chance to “warm their dead” by visiting their graves, eating traditional funeral foods and exchanging forgiveness with one’s loved ones.
Over the years, the Orthodox Church absorbed the festival — which gets its name from the Russian word for oil (maslo) — as a week of feasting before ushering in the austerity that comes with Lent.
Photograph by Dmitry Serebryakov/AP
Look Closer: An Out-Of-Control Fire, or Fiery Fun ...
Look Closer is a new photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
The idea for the quilt was hatched by activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
There were more than 44,000 individual panels in the quilt, weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
The first display of the quilt was in 1987, in Washington, D.C., and it was displayed again in 1996 to be visited by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was shown again at the time of the XIX International AIDS Conference in 2012.
The quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones. Many who died of AIDS-related illnesses didn’t have funerals because of the social stigma early on. In fact, some funeral homes and cemeteries even refused to accept the bodies of the deceased.
This could be Washingtonians standing beside a giant board game on the National Mall. But look beyond a glance and you’ll see that the spectators are gathered around the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt on a crisp October day in 1996. The expansive, colorful AIDS Memorial Quilt — with more than 44,000 panels weighing over 10,000 pounds — was designed to be an eye-catching tool for a national prevention campaign that portrayed the humanity behind the statistics. The idea for the project was hatched in 1985 by activist Cleve Jones and other volunteers during a candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
In more ways than one, 1996 was an inflection point. It was the first year since the epidemic started that saw the AIDS incidence rate and deaths decline. In the same year, Time magazine Man of the Year was granted to AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho. The doctor was a pioneer in the use of drug “cocktails,” or combinations, to fight the virus. At the time, 23 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 6 million people had already died.
“When the history of this era is written, it is likely that the men and women who turned the tide on AIDS will be seen as true heroes of the age,” Time wrote about Dr. Ho. By 2017, more than two decades later, nearly 37 million people had HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to UNAIDS.
Today, remembrance and commitment to LGBTQ rights are no less pressing. Pride Month, which commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969 in Manhattan, is simultaneously a time for resistance and celebration. Among those both within and outside the LGBTQ community, this month evokes an intentional remembrance of decades of hard-fought progress that LGBTQ activists have made in demanding equal rights in American society. At the same time, it’s a reminder that democracy requires the active participation of all — and that the battle for equality is neither over nor won.
Photograph by Shayna Brennan/AP
Look Closer: Rugs, Giant Board Game, or Something Far More Poignant?
By Pallabi Munsi