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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Last Bell Tolls for School Graduates

Moscow high-school graduates started saying farewell to school Tuesday in a time-honored tradition that included the ceremonial ringing of "the Last Bell" at the city's 1, 351 high schools.

The celebration, that distantly resembles the senior prom ritual in the United States, is always held on May 25 and marks the last day of classes for seniors, 11th-graders. Accordingly, it symbolizes the last school bell they will hear in their lives.

"This event is very sentimental for parents", said Galina Piterskaya, 40, whose daughter Marina will graduate from school No. 1278 this summer. "We even cried a little bit, and so did our children. It is always somewhat sad to say farewell to school".

According to veteran teachers, the traditions surrounding the last day of classes started in the 1950s and ever since then has been everybody's favorite along with the graduation night in late June.

The wrenching changes that have hit Russia in recent years have also had an impact on this school tradition.

No longer do boys wear blue suits nor do the girls sport white aprons over their uniform dresses. Now, they wear what they like and the same free spirit seems to have permeated other aspects of the ceremonies.

Expenses for the celebrations have had to be heavily cut, as state-financed schools cannot keep up with the galloping prices. In the past the Education Ministry paid the bills.

"We cut down on flowers and the rest was paid for by our sponsors, the aircraft engineering university", said Yelena Derbenyova, 40, physics teacher at school No. 1278 and homeroom teacher for one of the graduating classes.

The highlight and trademark act of the day, still performed in every school, involves one of the male graduates carrying a little first-grader on his shoulders through the school building while the child rings a big bell.

At School No. 1278, like most high schools throughout Russia, the Last Bell celebration involved a performance in which the students thanked their teachers and said good-bye to them. The teachers then responded.

The seniors made gentle fun of their teachers and of their school life by staging a humorous pop-music concert, mimicking their teacher's favorite performers and their hits, changing the lyrics to make digs at or compliment their teachers.

"Their concert was great, I loved it", Derbenyova said. "The students were very creative, witty and resourceful".

There was still one ringer at the end of the day, however: The students still have to face final exams next month.