International Women’s Day has been celebrated internationally for over a century. The origins of International Women’s Day are attributed to many women’s liberation moments… Some even date it back to ancient Rome, when both free and slave women would have a free day to go and worship Vesta, goddess of the hearth. Others date it back to 1910 when Germany communist Clara Zetkin proposed a day to honour women fighting for equal rights. She was supposedly inspired by a women’s strike in New York demanding equal pay and better working conditions.
Russian women first celebrated International Women’s Day on March 2nd 1913 by holding a demonstration in St Petersburg, Russia’s capital at the time, for the right to vote. On March 8th, 1917 (which was February 23rd on the Julian calendar in use at the time) women organised another demonstration which is believed to be the beginning of the Russian Revolution.
Four days after this demonstration, Tsar Nicholas II absconded the throne and the following provisional government granted Russian women the right to vote.
In 1918 it was made a national holiday in Russia and became a non-working day in 1965.
International women’s day is now celebrated worldwide in celebration of women’s fight for equal rights.
In Russia it is now seen more as a celebration of motherhood, beauty and spring.
So how is International women’s day celebrated?
Flowers are one of the most common gifts given to women on March 8th, Spring flowers in general are popular but especially Lilies of the Valley, yellow mimosas and roses. It’s important to remember, if you are going to gift flowers in Russia you must make sure the bouquet has an odd number of flowers! An even bouquet is exclusively reserved for funerals.
Chocolates and sweets are also popular gifts, as well as perfumes or books but the general rule of thumb is to give something that the woman will like.
Cards given to women will also often feature imagery of mothers with children.
Here is an example of a traditional International Women’s Day poem:
Желаю счастья и любви.
Они дороже всех подарков.
И пусть все сбудутся мечты
В прекрасный день - 8 Марта!
I wish you happiness and love,
They are worth more than all the gifts.
And let all your dreams come true
On this beautiful day – March 8th