Crowds celebrate St. Petersburg’s graduate gala


ST. St. Petersburg, Russia (AP) — The Scarlet Sail Celebration is a rite of passage, both figuratively and literally. Each year, a sailing vessel with glowing red sails descends the Neva River in St. Petersburg, celebrating the departure of recent graduates for adulthood.

On Fridays and Saturdays, a large number of people gathered along the riverbank to hold an elaborate fireworks display. The pageant’s color was enhanced by the azure glow of the night sky, which never completely darkened in the northern cities during the summer.

Recent graduates flocked from all over Russia for a celebration, hugging each other, throwing their companions into the air, and seeing ships crouching down by windows and door frames.

The celebration dates back to the Soviet era in 1968 and is rooted in the early romantic fantasy novel of the same name by Russian author Alexander Grin, who became a popular movie in 1961. Her mysterious appearance predicts that her suitor will take her to her mysterious future on a ship with her red sails.

The event was canceled in 1979 and in 2005 attracted hundreds of thousands of people and revived as a major tourist attraction, including music and other performances.