Russian Language Blog

Yet Another Public Holiday: С Восьмым Марта! Posted by on Mar 8, 2008 in Culture, Soviet Union, Traditions

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day, which in Russian translates into Междонародный женский день, or, even better – выходной день [public holiday]. Since the 8th of March this year falls on a Saturday, the Russian Federation has decided to solve this situation in two ways – one way for those not working or studying on Saturdays, and another for those working or studying on Saturdays (for those to whom this is news – yes, a six days a week schedule is the harsh reality for most students and schoolchildren in Russia). For those not working nor studying on Saturday, thus having the day already be a выходной, Monday is the day off instead. Those who study or work on Saturday get that day off and instead they have to show up to work or to university/school on Monday. And on Monday they’ll have to study according to Saturday’s schedule. This means that the выходной wasn’t really a выходной at all, but you merely get to rest in order to pay it back later. This was one of the most difficult things for me to handle when I first arrived in Russia. However, today’s subject is not “difficult things to handle when first arriving in Russia” but the holiday that celebrates the smarter, oh, sorry, the fairer sex – с праздником!


This is a characteristic card from the 30’s, calling ‘working women to break free from kitchen slavery’. That was however, due to the Soviet state’s incapability of providing enough, or any at all, household appliances, only a farfetched fantasy.

During the 8th of March, or during any other public holiday in Russia, you are greeted with the phrase «с праздником» everywhere you go – in the store, on the bus, or simply walking down the street. On the 8th of March, for understandable reasons, only women are spoken to with the words «с праздником вас (тебя)» (just as this phrase can only be directed at men on another public holiday, the 23rd of February, known as День защитника Отечества [Day of the Defender of the Fatherland] or basically for what it is – День мужчин [Man Day]). Of course the whole phrase is «я поздравляю вас с праздником восьмого марта!» though no one, or at least very few people, have the energy to repeat that sentence to every woman they meet during the entire course of this day. If someone has the energy, and if it happens to be an official event, as for example a dinner or a get-together of sort, you might run into someone who will congratulate you on your gender with the most inspired words: «Разрешите мне поздравить Вас с прекрасным праздником прекрасного пола!» The tradition is to give women flowers on this day, and not any kind of flowers, but мимоза [mimosa]. This year I didn’t see any brightly yellow mimosa sold anywhere in Yekaterinburg, though I saw almost everyone – be it man or woman – carry around both big and small bouquets of roses, tulips and other kinds of flowers in every given color.


Flowers are not the only gift. Walking past one of the lingerie chain Дикая орхидея [wild orchid] stores the other day I took a snapshot of this advertisement. Not only are the prices outrageous, but it also makes you wonder – is not buying sexy lingerie for the woman in your life actually buying a gift for yourself?

On Saturday night I took a walk around Yekaterinburg, and I must confess that the evening was quieter and calmer than is usual. There was hardly any traffic. Everything seemed somehow soft, somehow mellow, and I coulnd’t help but to think to myself – I like this. Everywhere I went I saw couples holding hands, I saw families with their children, everyone dressed their best, heading to some concert or some party or some restaurant to celebrate the day. All women were holding flowers in one hand, and with the other one the hand of a husband or a boyfriend or a lover or an uncle or – in some cases it is just as good – the hand of their best girlfriend. Probably the calmness around the city on the 8th of March is due to two things, both of them equally important. Women don’t have to do any housework on this day and can spend the whole day (one day a year!) relaxing. Men know that if they do the housework and let their wife/girlfriend/lover/aunt rest that day, they are sure they’ll get some later at night. And so, for one day, Yekaterinburg is calm, rested and relaxed…

Some Russians say that 8th of March is like a second Valentines Day. I’d have to agree.

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  1. elektrokuhinja:

    We also celebrate 8th march in Serbia, but it is more like a holiday from the comunistic past. Women usually get some extra bonus on work and flowers from co-workers.

  2. Christopher:

    Extremely interesting post Joey. It’s terrific to feel connected to the day-to-day life in Russia. Thanks!

  3. Peter:

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