Culture and traditions

St. Petersburg has a great historical and cultural heritage.

The architectural ensemble of the city and its surroundings of the 18th and 19th centuries remained practically unchanged, even after the World War II. Saint Petersburg has now become a unique reserve of European architectural styles of the past three centuries.

In the list of the World Cultural Heritage St. Petersburg has 36 integrated sites bringing together more than 4,000 outstanding monuments of architecture, history and culture.

There are 221 museums, 2000 libraries, more than 80 theatres, 100 concert halls, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 62 cinemas, 80 club establishments of culture, etc. Every year the city hosts about 100 festivals and competitions in different areas of art and culture, including more than 50 international.

A special place among St. Petersburg cultural events is taken by ballet performances. St.Petersburg Ballet School deservedly considered one of the best in the world. The traditions of Russian classical school passed down from generation to generation through the outstanding Russian, French and Swedish dance teachers. Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who are admired all over the world, are among the prominent St. Petersburg dancers.

Russia is a truly unique country, which, along with a highly contemporary culture cherishes the traditions of the nation, deeply rooted not only in Orthodoxy, but even in paganism. The Russians continue to celebrate pagan holidays. Many people believe in omens and legends.

Russian Christianity gave such wonderful holidays like Easter, Christmas and Epiphany ritual and paganism - Pancake and Ivan Kupala.

Easter is a bright holiday of Christ's resurrection. This holiday came to Russia from Byzantium together with the baptism at the end of the 10th century. Since then, this Christian holiday is beautifully and solemnly celebrated throughout Russia.

Christmas is a celebration of birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, with the advent of whom people gained the hope of mercy, kindness, truth and eternal life. At the beginning of the last century, the main holiday was Christmas.

Christmas was celebrated on the 25th December. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day used to be a family holiday in St. Petersburg. After the revolution in 1917, Russia had moved to the Gregorian calendar and Christmas began to be celebrated on the 7th January.

New Year Celebrations. The tradition of the New Year celebration on the 1st of January was brought to Russia by Peter I. Each city used to have its own traditions of this holiday. New Year celebrated in restaurants, plenty of which were in St. Petersburg for a long time.

During the soviet times, religion was a forbidden area and people emphasised on New Year Celebrations. That is why in most Russian families the celebration of the New Year is a bigger holiday than Christmas, which is often left ignored.

Ivan Kupala. At the time of the ancient pagan Rus there existed the God Kupalo, who personified summer fertility. In his honour people sang songs and jumped over the fire in the evening.

This ritual act has become an annual celebration of the summer solstice, a blending of pagan and Christian tradition. Ivan Kupala deity came to be called after the baptism of Russia. Then it was replaced by John the Baptist (or rather - its local vision), who baptized Christ himself, and whose Christmas was celebrated on the 24th of June.

Maslenitsa. In ancient times a feast of pancakes (Maslenitsa) was considered to be a carnival of All Souls. So the burning of the Maslenitsa is its funeral, and pancakes were a memorial meal. But as time passed, and the Russian people, hungry for fun and relaxation, turned a sad holiday into a daring Pancake.

The tradition to make pancakes - round, yellow and hot as the sun, has remained. Then the horse riding, sledding and tobogganing with icy mountains, fist fighting and “Mothers in law” gatherings were added to the national celebrations. Shrovetide rituals are very unusual and interesting because they combine the completion of the period of the winter holidays and rituals, opening new spring period of holidays and rituals that were supposed to contribute to a rich harvest.

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