Defender of the Fatherland Day
Defender of the Fatherland Day is also referred to as men’s day and was established to commemorate men for their military achievements. Nowadays any man, without exception, receives congratulations on this day even though some of them didn’t complete military service (National service is still obligatory for most men in Russia).
The 23rd of February is a national holiday meaning everyone gets an extra day off. Yay! Many think that there are too many holidays in Russia and I completely agree with that. In fact, I am full of jealousy because here in England we only get 8 bank holidays a year. It feels like you are constantly working unless you are lucky and your employer offers a decent holiday allowance.
Men’s day is a big thing for Russian people. Around this time shops start selling themed cards and small gifts. When I was at school in Russia, we made cute cards for our brothers, fathers, granddads and, if still alive, great granddads. Since around 26 million Soviets died in World War II, 20 million of which were Russian, there weren’t that many men left at that time. Sad but true.
Once you start earning money, giving someone a card is simply not enough so you run around like a headless chicken gift-hunting for your male relatives. Additionally, you send all male acquaintances a long text message that you find on the internet thanking them for being decent blokes. In modern Russia, it’s all about men behaving in an honourable “Russian” way. This includes offering their seat to a woman or stepping in if a bad guy is disrespecting an innocent person on the street etc.
On this day all women thank their boyfriends and husbands for all the good that they’ve done for them. Parents thank their sons for showing respect and for not being a mess (even if they are). So this day no longer has the initial military focus but instead celebrates humanitarian achievements.
I know all of this might sound really painful to a feminist ear but this is reality. Though here’s the good bit. On the 8th of March women get the due attention back as it’s National Women’s Day. All women are excused from housework, cooking etc. for the whole day. They just chill and receive presents and flowers. Basically, you just have to be nice to your male colleagues, classmates, friends and relatives on February 23 to get lots of presents on March 8 🙂