ROMANOV FAMILY: NEW YEAR’S BALLS
Thousands of guests were invited to the first imperial ball of the New Year. The balls usually took place in late January or early February at the Winter Palace. The first dance was the official polonaise, performed of course by the first couple of the nation – Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra. After this initial ceremonial dance, the fun began consisting of mazurkas, polkas and waltzes.
The waiters walked around offering sweets like candies, ice cream and fruit, as well as soft drinks and champagne. Having danced for a couple of hours, the guests moved on to the banquet.
For the immediate Romanov family, the VIPs and the diplomats, a large table would be set up in a separate room, while the rest of guests dined in the main hall. Each table in the main hall had an extra chair so that Nicholas II could sit down and talk with the guests as he made his rounds from table to table throughout the evening. Usually the Tsar was followed by his retinue who stood nearby. The suite had their meal later because according to tradition they were only supposed to observe the feast the entire time.
In 1903 Nicholas II gave the last grand costume ball to celebrate the New Year. Empress Alexandra was dressed as Tsaritsa Maria Miloslavskaya – the first wife of Alexei I – while Nicholas II dressed up as Tsar Alexei himself. The imperial suite all dressed as Russian boyars of the time, and the rest of the guests wore costumes of falconers, archers and city women.
This was the last ball that ever took place in magnificent imperial Russia – after the war began the official celebrations were no longer allowed. The Russian revolution followed, hence never again would the walls of the Winter Palace witness another imperial ball.