International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19 in 1911. This event, which included rallies and organized meetings, was a huge success in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The March 19 date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. The promise gave hope for equality but it was a promise that he failed to keep. The International Women’s Day date was moved to March 8 in 1913.

In Russia, this holiday emerged as a political celebration to symbolize the fight of women from all over the world for their rights, full equality with men, democracy and peace. As the time passed, the political motives of the holiday moved to the background and March 8th simply became a women’s holiday in Russia and other republics of the former USSR.

Festa della Donna (Women’s Day Festival), is celebrated March 8 all over Italy. On this day, men bring flowers to the women in their lives. Many cafes and restaurants have special meals and there are often small local festivals or concerts. Some museums and sites offer free or reduced admission for women.

In the Ukraine, March 8 is celebrated as the holiday of women, spring and love. It is an official day off for both men and women, which was originally introduced by the Communists. Currently, Ukrainian men congratulate their women by giving them flowers, presents and doing the housework by themselves.

In France, in order to celebrate the holidays, Air France designated an all female crew to fly from Paris to Washington. With two pilots and 22 attendants, Air France says that this will be “the largest exclusively female crew in its history.”

In India, over 100 women marched in the capital, New Delhi, calling on the government to do more to protect them.

In South Africa, hundreds of drummers played with the message that violence against women should stop.

Many amazing things happened for women this year. Women in the U.S. won the right to serve on the front lines in combat, the number of women who die in childbirth declined by 50% and the President inched closer to demanding equal pay for men and women. However, according to a current study, 1 in 3 women in the world will be raped in her lifetime and violence against women is still the norm in many countries.

Maslenitsa

Also known as butter week, pancake week or cheese-fare week, Maslenitsa, is a major Russian holiday and celebrated the week before Lent. It began as a pagan ritual and was not celebrated for over 85 years but as of 2002, the holiday is back in full force.

Maslenitsa is the oldest surviving Russian holiday; evidence suggests it may have been celebrated as early as the 2nd century A.D. Maslenitsa symbolizes both the exit of winter and the beginning of spring. It is also part of both pre-Lenten festivities but also a way to celebrate the end of the fast. Maslenitsa 2013 began on March 11 and it will end on March 17.

Blini, or Russian pancakes are feasted on during Maslenitsa, as meat is forbidden to be eaten by Orthodox Christians at this time. Blini are said to symbolize the sun, as they are round and warm. The name of the festival has its roots in the Russian word for butter, “maslo.” Blini are given to friends and family all through the week and are topped with caviar, mushrooms, jam, sour cream and butter.

Activities enjoyed during Maslenitsa include snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. There is even a day where mothers-in-law visit sons-in-law to eat pancakes together! The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Maslenitsa. The end of the festival concludes with her burning.

 

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