“Алые Паруса” (“Scarlet Sails”) is a Soviet and Russian holiday for graduates of secondary schools, celebrated annually in St Petersburg. As a rule, it takes place on the nearest Saturday to the lightest white night (usually between 18th and 25th of June).
First “Scarlet Sails” took place on 1968, and over the years it grew so popular that it is now known far beyond Russian borders. Each year the event is attended by thousands of tourists from all over the world. Furthermore, it is recommended as a must-see event in 20 countries of European Union. In 1979 “Scarlet Sails” got banned due to safety reasons as crowds became too large. In 2005 the tradition was resumed again.
“Scarlet Sails” symbolizes hope that is placed on promising and talented young people – the school graduates and the future of not just St Petersburg but the entire country. It is a fascinating and colourful show that starts with a big concert on Dvortsovaya Square, followed by a show on Neva River. The show itself consists of theatrical performances, pyrotechnics, orchestra and, of course, the water spectacle. Although the entrance to Dvortsovaya is invitation-only for school graduates, there is usually another stage on Vasilievsky island where all other guests can join the concert while waiting for the main part of the festival.
The show on the river is the main feature of the celebration. Its culmination is a gorgeous ship with beautiful scarlet sails sailing along the embankment. All elements of the water show are synchronized with the music and with each other, so the crew of the ship is under a immense pressure to make sure the ship passes every milestone exactly on the precise second when it is planned to do so.
The iconic ship comes from a tale by Soviet fantasy author Alexander Grin. The book tells a story of a young girl from a poor family who lives in a small fishing village but dreams to see the world one day. She was told by a wizard that a ship with scarlet sails will come and take her away one day, and she believes in that.
This year “Scarlet Sails” will take place on the upcoming weekend (23/24 June 2019). Annually attended by 1,5 to 3 million people, it is fair to say that this beautiful event has become the hallmark of Russian northern capital.