As of this Monday, we have now entered one of the best times of year in Russia – Maslenitsa! Why have just one pancake day when you can have a whole week? Now that’s an idea I can get behind. However, this is just one of many exciting Russian festivals which you can enjoy when studying abroad, so let me introduce you to some of Russia’s best-known and best-loved festivals.
Paskha (Easter, April)
Paskha is the Russian version of Easter and, as such, its traditions are a little different to back home. If you didn’t know already, Russia is an Orthodox country, and paskha is usually observed after a period of post, or fasting, during which time many restaurants in Russia serve a special lent menu. Houses are typically cleaned before ‘Clean Thursday’, when Russians dye and decorate eggs – none of that chocolate business here. On Saturday, traditional Easter food is cooked and is usually blessed at church during the evening service. You also get to eat kulich, which is a delicious Easter bread, usually served with icing and tvorog, which is a sort of sweet cream cheese. Would definitely recommend.
Prazdnik Vesny i Truda (Labour Day, 1st May)
Labour Day is a pretty big deal in Russia and usually you don’t just get one day off, but three, which is even better. It’s usually a time when people go away to their dacha or further afield, although I just used the opportunity to explore the more ‘cultural’ side of St. Petersburg (of course, I mean bars). After a taxing 4 day week at uni, you’re definitely in need of a break, so what better excuse to relax than a national holiday.
Den’ Pobedy (Victory Day, 9th May)
Victory Day is arguably the biggest festival of the year in Russia, commemorating the end of the Second World War. You have to start your day early, so as to get a decent spot among your fellow festival-goers. What is there to see? Well, pretty much everything. In St. Petersburg, there was a tank parade and a performance by a military band, followed by a flotilla on the River Neva, plane flyovers, the Immortal Regiment parade (where descendants of the fallen march down the main street of St. Petersburg, Nevsky Prospekt, holding their portraits), and the classic firework display when night descends. It certainly has an atmosphere like no other and the renditions you hear of Katyusha as everyone piles onto the temporarily-pedestrianised Nevsky Prospekt are truly something.
Den’ Goroda Sankt-Peterburg (St. Petersburg City Day, 27th May)
St. Petersburg is a city which prides itself on its history and culture, and this is never more apparent than on its city day at the end of May. Various stalls line the streets and there are a number of events, ranging from parades to boating displays on the River Neva. It may be a relatively young city, but there is certainly a lot to celebrate in the Venice of the North.
Den’ Rossii (Russia Day, 12thJune)
Another big festival is Russia Day, which provides yet another welcome break from the gruelling 4 day week of a study abroad student at St. Petersburg State University. This is another good chance to relax and take in the sights and sounds of the city. It's also a popular time of year to visit Russia’s bustling seaside resorts, such as Sochi.
Hannah Klimas, Year Abroad Editor