The Scarlet Sails is a celebration in St. Petersburg, Russia, the most massive and famous public event during the White Nights Festival every summer. The tradition is highly popular for its spectacular fireworks, numerous music concerts and a massive water show.
This tradition began in 1968, when several Leningrad schools united to celebrate the end of the school year in connection with the symbolism of the popular 1922 children’s book Scarlet Sails by Alexander Grin. During the first celebration, a brigantine with scarlet sails sailed along the English Embankment and the Admiralty Embankment towards the Winter Palace. The 1961 release of the film Scarlet Sails boosted the popularity both of the book and of the tradition.
Although there existed an early draft version of the Scarlet Sails poem, which action was staged at post-revolutionary Petrograd (St. Petersburg’s russificated name before renaming to Leningrad in 1924), the author eventually put its action to a fictional country, thus making his work just a symbolic story of an all-conquering, lofty dream with no rusty revolutionary propaganda.
As a symbol of fulfilling child’s dream to be adult and free from "schools and rules" the brigantine with scarlet sails turned to be an emblem of transition to a new wishfully beautiful adult life upon school-graduation. The tradition interrupted in later Soviet period, but was again reborn since 2005, when St. Petersburg authorities realized the tourist-attracting potential of the event.
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