The Neptune Festival
December 16, 2007
When I turned 15, I was sent for the whole summer to my grandmother’s place, a small village on the shore of the Black Sea.
“It’ll be so much fun,” my cousin said, meeting me at the railway station. “We are planning Neptune Festival this year,” she added with pride.
“Wow!” I replied, without any idea what she was talking about.
On the way, I collected some of the information about the mysterious festival, and took her word to let me participate in its organization. That was the beginning of my summer ritual. “If July 12th is officially booked for the Neptune festival, July 11th will be the day of its preparation,” I thought.
I woke up excited. All day I asked everyone if I could help. The day was gone, but nobody asked. I went to sleep, angry at my cousin for not keeping her promises.
But, at midnight, she knocked at my window and said, “Let’s go!” It turned out that the festival had to be a surprise for visitors to the village.
In the silence of the night, people, mostly young, were decorating their house's facades with colourful hardboard figures of underwater inhabitants. I was responsible for hanging multicoloured lanterns on trees beside the houses. We did mostly the main road, which the visitors were using to get to the beach. Exhausted, we went to sleep at daybreak.
The next day, we admired the picture we’d created. Water-nymphs were sitting on fences with a cold dangerous, but alluring, smile. Friendly-looking dolphins were diving into the rose’s bushes as if they were sea waves. A plastic octopus conquered my heart with its bright pink head and a big TOOTHY smile. Exotic types of fish, organized in schools on fences, were directing visitors to the beach. Tourists were giggling and taking pictures beside figures. Little shops were offering various costumes: necklaces with seashells, cloth-seaweeds, mermaid wigs with diadems, and crab-claw mittens. Laughter was heard from every corner of the village.
Following people to the beach, I awaited the peak of the festival. On the beach, people were awaited by many locals dressed up as pirates. Pirates, without warning, were dumping people into the sea. People were screaming and laughing, trying to escape. Villagers had a surprise for those who managed to escape. The rest of the participants were waiting beyond the beach with baskets filled with water.
After two to three hours of dipping people into the water, the Neptune Tsar came from the sea. A man, with a long green beard, wore seaweed rugs brought on shore by a catamaran. He waved in a friendly way to everyone after he landed. His maids had baskets full of “sea gifts.” They gave every soaked person a gift: seashells, polished rocks, fresh crawfish, pictures of the village, and lots of useless but cute stuff.
Nobody wanted to leave the beach. Until late at night, people were dancing and laughing on the coast. I couldn’t stay late because of my age, but I promised myself that, when I grew up, I’d stay and have fun along with everybody at the most amazing summer ritual I’ve ever experienced.