Summer in St. Petersburg: Alye Parusa the Scarlet Sails Festival

July 3, 2013 in SunErgos NEWS

As an organization SunErgos International hopes to explain some of the social and political issues that cause systems of abandonment and disease for Russian children.  However, we also have a heart for Russian culture and believe it is important to share some of the unique and lovely aspects of life in Russia.

With the coming of July communities across America will be barbequing corn-on-the-cob, families will be picnicking at beaches and parks, and old friends will gather to watch the annual fireworks.  The Fourth of July embodies many of the cherished summer traditions in America.  Only a week or so earlier Saint Petersburg celebrates summer with Alye Parusa (Алые Паруса) or the Scarlet Sails Festival.

Alye Parusa

In late June millions of people crowd into the center of St. Petersburg for Alye Parusa, the biggest event of St. Petersburg’s White Nights Festival that hosts different festivities all summer.  The White Nights Festival celebrates the changing season in St. Petersburg where the sun shines for almost 24 hours throughout summer months.  Alye Parusa embodies the freedom and celebration that comes with these long summer days.

The Scarlet Sails festival began after World War II when a few schools united to celebrate the end of the school year.  Now, it is a massive festival when the Petersburg schools get out and teenagers finish their exams.  For those graduating it becomes a massive graduation party celebrated by the entire city!  The story comes from a fairy tale by Alexander Grin about a prince saving a peasant maiden from her poverty by sailing to her in a ship of scarlet sails.  The venture is reenacted annually as a scarlet sailed ship steers down the Neva in the center of St. Petersburg towards the Winter Palace—better known as the Hermitage one of the largest art museums in Europe.

The festival includes concerts and shows by famous artists from around the world.  In 2010 they had acts including Cirque du Soleil, Mariinksy Ballet, and Antonio Banderas.  There are competitive motorboat races, dramatic pirate battles, and parading rock stars.  It is quite the event!

It ends with the brilliant scarlet ship sailing down through the sun and moonlit Neva, followed by a massive water show and fireworks.  These fireworks blow most American shows out of the water (excuse the pun).  Those directing the festivities have brought fireworks to a perfected art form with colors, shapes, and music timed together for a spectacular experience!

Words do little to demonstrate the phenomenon of this holiday.  Watch this video to get a slight taste of exhibition.

This celebration has been dubbed the most romantic night of the summer.  It is filled with Russian tradition, spirit, and a great sense of freedom.  For those interested in seeing a true St. Petersburg summer night this festival is the place to be!

Written by Hilary Morris, Creative Writing Intern.