Before The Fast
As the Pensacola News Journal notes
while those areas that were influenced by French Catholicism call today Mardi Gras
much of the Christian world refers to today as Shrove Tuesday and instead of King cakes, pancakes are on the menu.
The terms Lent
are derived from Teutonic terms for the spring festival and the goddess of Spring and Dawn, rather than The Fast
and The Resurrection
which are more correct terms.
In Russia Shrove Tuesday is called Maslenitsa [Масленица-Butter Maiden] and it involves bliny [блины-pancakes], covered in smetana [сметана-sour cream] with ikra [икра-caviar] on top washed down with vodka [водка-little water]. In other areas it is Pancake Day for the same reason. The general idea is to eat up all of the foods that you are going to be avoiding for the next 40 days. The round, golden pancakes are considered sun symbols.
One of the traditions is to make a straw effigy of Maslenitsa to which everyone recounts their sins. At the end of the day the doll and your sins are thrown on a bonfire.
In general everything revolves around rebirth in the Spring.