Ever since I’ve been a little girl, March 8 has been an important day. I always woke up to flowers from my wonderful father and sometimes even a gift. In fact, when I began writing this, an Amazon gift card popped into my Inbox.
March 8 not my birthday, nor is it any important milestone for me or my family. It’s International Women’s Day! But in Russian, we don’t even need to call it that. The date itself is so representative of the holiday that all we ever need to say is March 8th – or Happy March 8th! There were only a few other times a year when I got used to getting flowers – my birthday, sometimes Valentine’s Day and of course (?), Mother’s Day (moreso subliminal messaging than anything else from my parents – “because you are a future mother”). My sister, mother, grandmother and other women in our family also got gifts and/or flowers on International Women’s Day.
But it was always strange to me why no one else was celebrating this wonderful holiday. Why was I the only one of my friends who ever got flowers or gifts on March 8? Ok, so part of the reason is that my father has always set a very high bar for all other men, but the real reason has long eluded me.
Today, while I was browsing Twitter and seeing messages about the holiday come through my feed, I wondered about it again. Why is International Women’s Day (properly and even seriously) celebrated in many European (and other) countries and just some sort of simple calendar marker in the U.S.? (like International Beer Day or something) In other countries, the holiday has traditions …and gifts. In America, it’s nowadays used as a moment to focus on women’s issues or development good) or just as a fun thing to acknowledge on Twitter. But rarely are there gifts…or actual festive congratulatory greetings associated with the day (bad).
A Wikipedia search later, I learned that the first “national” Women’s Day was observed on February 28, 1909 in the United States, as per a declaration by the Socialist Part of America and then was made international the following year . In the socialist vein, the holiday was also originally referred to as International Working Women’s Day. In fact, the holiday has primarily been celebrated in communist, socialist (or former socialist countries). According to the Wikipedia post, the day is only an official holiday in under 30 countries (Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia). In other countries, such as Cameroon, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzgovina, Serbia, Bulgaria and Chile, the day may not be a public holiday, but it is said to be widely observed.
With all of that information above, then, I wonder if International Women’s Day is dismissed or at least not as widely (or properly) celebrated in the U.S. because of its socialist roots? The popularity and acknowledgement of it has seemed to pick up since my family came to America, but no one’s buying flowers just yet. We’ll see how things are in another 20 years, but for now, I will relish in the fact that I am one of the few women who got a gift today…just for being a woman.