In Celebration of Men Day
Today, February 23rd, is Men Day in Russia. You might ask: “They have a holiday just for men in Russia? Isn’t everyday in a patriarchal society ‘men day’?” Well, yes and yes (thanks for asking). It’s not just men day though – it’s actually Defender of the Fatherland Day (or День защитника Отечества). If that sounds a little Soviet, that’s because it is. The day marks the first mass draft of men into the Red Army in 1918. The holiday stuck around after the Soviet Union disappeared (like a few other things) and nowadays, is a day when women celebrate the men in their lives. You might also ask, “Don’t women also defend the motherland?” Well, yes, again, but they get International Women’s Day on March 8th and it’d be silly to let them celebrate twice!
This is my first “men day” here in Ukraine. It doesn’t seem to be as big of deal here and the archives, for one, were actually open (worth celebrating)! I have not once been greeted with “s prazdnikom” and I’m a bit offended. I’ve defended a few fatherlands in my day.
In celebration of men day, I’ll post an account of my first men day in Russia – written back in 2005. Enjoy!
Man Day: My first official “Man Day” was a blast here in Russia. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a “man day” holiday. Chris and I were discussing this new-found holiday and decided that we, men, really do need a day when for once women will cook and clean for us. You know, just one day out of the year where we can have a few beers, kick back, and not have to do all the ironing! Ok, I’m kidding, we didn’t say that (well Chris almost did and I’m telling your girlfriend, Chris 😉 and I’m such a feminist it usually offends my female friends (odd, no?). Ok, I admit it’s not officially called “man day” but rather “The Homeland Defender’s Day” since the basis for the holiday is to celebrate all the men who are and have defended the country. But nonetheless it really is a “man” holiday and most people refer to it as that – I didn’t make that up. Our lovely Russian lady friends cooked the most delicious assortment of Russian goodies (and no I didn’t eat any smetana but it was still good, Chris. Smetana is the Russian word for devil in case anyone was wondering). I must admit I felt a little awkward partaking because 1) I’m not Russian 2) I’ve been told by a few women that I’m not a man 3) There hasn’t been a military engagement in my natural life in any country that I’ve supported and/or would have partaken in (well ok, except the Falkland war. Now that was a war! Way to show those Argentineans, lads!). But, hey, delicious borsch is delicious borsch and I wouldn’t pass that up any day of week. And cut Russian men a break, people – come on, when your life expectancy is something like 56, you’re entitled a few holidays (I’m serious).