The Magic of Russian May Holidays
If you’ve never been to Russia (hint hint you really should come, summer is coming and we promise you won’t freeze to death, and bears have all abandoned their balalaikas and gone on vacation to the North Pole), you may not know that we love the beginning of May as dearly as we love that reposeful week after New Year’s. Why? Because ‘tis the sweet, sweet time of prolonged public holidays, often with the added plus of good weather. Here are our reflections on this wonderful time of the year.
My fondest memory of May holidays was when I was about seven or eight and my grandparents took me on our first road trip, to Novgorod. Up until then, grandma would send me postcards from her travels, which was nice, but not the same thing. I knew that if I “behaved”, this trip would be the start of something good.
I was sporting a new pink jacket and thought myself looking pretty spiffy. Grandma had her signature trench and cateye sunglasses. Granddad drove, which made him dashing by definition. We stayed at the nicest hotel in town. We toured the Kremlin and had dinner at Detinez, its ancient inner fortress. We watched the sky turn technicolor with rainbows after a rainstorm. The fact that my grandparents almost forgot me on the other side of the Ilmen Lake is another story. It gave me nightmares through high school.
Many trips came after this one. I did a good job “behaving”. I only wish my grandparents were still here and now I could take them on a road trip.
Vacation in May was totally foreign to me until I came to Russia. I learned here that the best times of the year to really rest are: the first week of January, summer, and May holidays. I don’t think I’ve ever spent my May holidays in St. Petersburg, it’s a perfect chance to get away. The weather is good all round and it’s finally your chance to enjoy the sun! So do it!
I kind of love and dread May holidays at the same time. Sure, the weather is usually not too shabby, and I love rest as much as the next person (probably even more, because it’s a feat for me to even tear myself from my couch day-to-day). But all this comes with a but, for at the slightest whiff of May approaching, some relative or friend of mine declares the start of a yet another home renovation project, with maniacal zeal glistening in their eyes. And I usually can’t help but get myself involved. This time, my auntie is moving flats, and I’ve already received a thinly veiled but nonetheless very insistent invitation to paint walls with her. At least there’s a chance that this unsightly and very much NOT couch-friendly business will lead to my dreaming in cartoons, so that’s that.
For me, May holidays are always about spending time with close friends and family: going to the dacha, fishing with my dad, roasting potatoes in the fire, picking the first parsley in my Mum's herb garden, and sitting in the firelight watching the stars and talking till it’s dark.