June 03, 2020

Celebrating Russia's Graduates


Celebrating Russia's Graduates
This event involves quite a bit of fanfare. Image by Spbkinoforum via Wikimedia Commons

Every summer a unique celebration takes place in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the White Nights period – Alye Parusa ("Scarlet Sails"). This holiday takes place every year on the Saturday closest to the shortest night of the year. It is usually conducted sometime between June 18 and 25, although it never takes place on June 22 (the solemn anniversary of the Nazi invasion). This year, Alye Parusa will likely take place on June 20. The date is usually announced in March, but this year the date has not yet been confirmed. Regardless, the holiday always takes place after classes and exams have ended.

The history of this holiday traces back to the 1960s, when graduates themselves took the initiative for ensuring that the holiday took place. The first Alye Parusa occurred on June 27, 1968, from 11 pm - 2 am. Over 25,000 graduates participated, with viewers watching from the Palace Embankment, as well as bridges and Strelka Vasilievsky Island. The holiday was officially approved the following year.

The idea to call the event “Scarlet Sails” is attributed to the popularity of a 1960s film based on a fairy tale of the same name by Alexander Grin. The story was written in the 1920s and is about the dream that each of us can create a miracle for a loved one.

Unfortunately, after a decade, the tradition stopped, and it was only resumed again in 2005. It’s only possible to attend the show if you have a ticket, but anyone can watch from the banks of the Neva.

The event kicks off with a star-studded concert, which is then followed by a fantastic fireworks show. The evening culminates with a red-sailed ship processing along the Neva. An estimated one million people flock to St. Petersburg to celebrate Alye Parusa.

For those who want a front-row seat to the event, it’s advisable to get into place a few hours before it starts, not later than 5 pm. It’s also important to keep in mind that after 10 pm the crowd will be so dense that it would be practically impossible to leave. Moreover, cell services are likely to be disrupted, so you should plan on a meeting place with your group in advance. How these issues will be reflected in the time of COVID is not clear.

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Alexander Grin
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Alexander Grin

Alexander Grin (1880-1932) had a short life filled with misfortune. His literary output has never been thought to be "classic" but it is entertaining and has enjoyed a recent resurgence of popularity.
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