This Weekend in St. Petersburg: December 29-31
With fridges full of food and TV remotes at the ready, Russians are preparing to celebrate the coming of the New Year. But if you still have the time and the desire to venture outside, here’s what awaits you this long weekend!
Royal Opera House’s The Nutcracker on New Holland Island
Is it even a festive period if you haven’t watched The Nutcracker at least once? On December 31, New Holland’s big screens will be graced by a, pardon the tautology, screening of the well-loved ballet classic, performed by the brilliant Royal Opera House cast. Sumptuous score, opulent costume design, and a story that is the epitome of Christmas magic; a perfect accompaniment to the New Year’s Eve.
The first screening starts at 3.30pm and ends at 6pm, continued with the second from 6.30pm till 9pm; both come with a half-hour break between the two acts of the ballet. Entrance is free, and if you’re up for some multitasking, you can even ice-skate when watching. There will also be a festive fair open (until January 8 of next year), with food, drinks, Christmas memorabilia, and numerous workshops for kids (and given that everyone is a kid during the Christmas time, I do believe that this also refers to adults).
New Year celebrations in the Palace Square and the city center
Brave are those who decide to journey to St. Petersburg’s city center in the last hours of December 31 (because everywhere is so crammed with people, that is), but if you’re that type of person, know that there will be a celebration event unraveling in the Palace Square, on Malaya Konyushennaya Street, and in the vicinity of Gostiny Dvor, from 10pm on December 31 to 4am on January 1.
The details are always kept in secret until the big day, but expect a, quote on quote, ‘mega’ concert featuring Russian pop-music big names, a jam-packed interactive program and a mystical ‘Show of Ice and Mirrors’. The main stage on the Palace Square will be decorated as a huge winter castle, and there will be fireworks commemorating the start of the New Year launched from the beach of the Peter and Paul Fortress at 3am.
Festive toys exhibition and a shadow puppet rendition of the Nativity scene at the St. Petersburg Toy Museum
Scores of Christmas toys, some of which have never been previously shown to the public, are now on display at the St. Petersburg Toy Museum from December 1, 2018 to January 31, 2019. The organizers want to prompt those who think that toys are for kids to think again, offering them to ponder on the totemic meaning of folk dolls, marvel at the detail involved in the making of panto dolls, and explore Soviet children’s dreams and aspirations for the future, seen through the toys of the era. Tickets start at 100 rubles.
The museum also offers you an opportunity to revisit the original story of the holy night when all was calm and all was bright, in a puppet theater performance of the Nativity scene. Celebrated Russian puppeteers will try to communicate the mystique of the event with an intricate shadow-and-light play, traditional folk songs, and, of course, dolls. The rich visual spectacle will be held on December 30, starting at 1pm. Tickets cost 800 rubles and include two places for an adult and a child. Note that you have to drop a word here or call +7 (812) 600-05-15 if you want to attend.
Nativity plays festival at the Russian Museum of Ethnography
Organized by the Russian Museum of Ethnography, the Christmas Mystery festival is another event aimed at immersing spectators in the cozy enigma of the Nativity folk theater. The many performances showcased here include traditional puppet plays and concerts by youth choirs from all over Russia. There will also be festive workshops and special tours through the museum’s impressive collection.
The event is held from December 25, 2018 to January 8, 2019. Tickets cost 150 rubles.
Christmas at Chaliapin’s
Although Christmas and New Year’s are events that are usually celebrated in a close family circle, a Russian opera great Feodor Chaliapin often spent them away from his elegant St. Petersburg home, traversing the Earth to show off his rich basso at a yet another concert. But these journeys weren’t without their perks and predicaments. Museum keepers at the singer’s memorial flat have devised an interactive expedition that will walk you through Chaliapin’s most memorable Christmases, from the ones he spent in faraway China, Japan and New Zealand, to his festive adventures in an American prison, under the crackling sounds of the gramophone recordings of his most iconic lieders and opera parts.
The interactive exhibition will take place on Wednesday from 1pm to 9pm, and Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 7pm, all the way to January 20, 2019. Tickets start at 100 rubles.
The World of Russian Aristocracy exhibition at the Yusupov Palace
A long, long time ago in the decadent world of Russian patricians, Yuletide was a time of balls, soirées, and fancy dinner parties. It’s sad that the time machine is yet to be invented because that must have been fun. Luckily, there is an exhibition that intends to serve as a window to this paragon of dolce vita, taking place in the grandiose Yusupov Palace from December 5, 2018 to March 30, 2019. Hosted in collaboration with the State Hermitage, The World of Russian Aristocracy: Balls and Festivities will showcase the lavish objects the Russian haut monde spruced itself with for their countless festive outings. Tickets start at 450 rubles.
5th International Christmas festival Adeste Fideles
A series of Christmas concerts at the Church of St. Stanislaus, the Adeste Fideles festival has long become an event traditional to St. Petersburg and eagerly awaited by many of its inhabitants. In this weekend’s program are three organ concerts given by eminent maestros from Russia and beyond: Music of Christmas and New Year on December 29 (from 7pm), Fêtes / Festivities on December 30 (from 4pm) and Annum per Annum on December 31 (from 7pm; Arvo Pärt’s namesake composition is on this one’s agenda as you might have guessed). Intricate, magical, and punctuated by both major and minor keys, the melodies played will be a perfect way to reflect on the festive period with all of its ups and downs (plaintive creations by Bach always pop in my head when I’m sweeping away the remnants of a yet another Christmas bauble my cat managed to break; I need help I know). Tickets cost 700 rubles on the day of the concerts and 500 rubles if booked in advance here.
Have a great weekend!