Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia occurs on February 23rd each year. On this day the men receive recognition with exciting celebrations and parades, as well as small gifts from the women in their lives.
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The first celebration of this public holiday occurred during the time of WWII; however, today, it is more than a military holiday. In fact, it is now considered the odd counterpart of Women’s Day in Russia, which falls on March 8th.
When February 23rd arrives, the women (and many men, as well) celebrate the men in their lives, who play a major role. This includes fathers, grandfathers, brothers, cousins, teachers, and even their co-workers. In Russia, this day is equivalent to the Western world’s Father’s Day, which is not traditionally observed in this country.
Also referred to as Men’s Day, Defender of the Fatherland Day is a creation unique to Russia. It was first observed to mark the date that the Red (Soviet) Army was created in 1918. Originally, the day was called Red Army Day, which then changed to Soviet Army and Navy Day. In 2002 it earned the current name – Defender of the Fatherland Day. This was a change declared by President Putin, who also made it an official public holiday at this time.
While there are some feminist societies that find issues with the idea of observing a “Men’s Day,” those in Russia don’t see it as inappropriate, offensive, or strange.
Even though Russian society is extremely patriarchal, this is a holiday that is widely accepted by everyone – both men and women. Even for men who were not involved in a war, it is still polite and important to recognise them on this day. This is because Women’s Day is so extensively celebrated.
Even though the day is a way to honour all men, there are public celebrations in Russia that are centred on Russian military achievements and soldiers. This is especially true regarding the ceremonies and parades that take place throughout the country that honour both past and current war veterans. Many military films and stories are even shown on TV, which is similar to the Veteran’s Day celebration in the United States.
On this day, parades are widespread, and there is a festival type atmosphere in the streets. Along with this atmosphere, you can find various street vendors, open-air music, food, and more celebrating the occasion.
It is expected that women give gifts of appreciation to the men in their lives. These gifts range from impersonal socks to expensive watches and other accessories, or even trips and experiences. In many families, the women cook a large, celebratory dinner at home, and it is not uncommon for couples to go out and celebrate the day.
Children often bring gifts and cards to their male teachers and make projects to bring home to their fathers and grandfathers.
Since the majority of workplaces, offices, and other businesses remain closed for February 23rd, many offices have a small celebration the day before or after February 23rd. Men usually receive small gifts, and everyone enjoys champagne and cake.