International Women’s Day (March, 8th) and Defender of the Fatherland Day (February, 23rd) are a public holidays in Russia, the former honouring motherhood, beauty and spring, the latter focusing on the achievements of military forces and veterans. These days we celebrate and congratulate with little appreciation of their origins.
For one, in 1914 International Women’s Day was held in Germany and Great Britain and was dedicated to women’s right to vote becoming a national holiday in Russia in 1918. British Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day has been celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent since at least the 13th century with people returning to church where they were baptized thus being reunited with their families. They could use this day to visit their mothers and often took gifts of food or clothing. Besides, the fast was lifted slightly on Mothering Sunday and girls would often take a basket of goodies that would include a Simnel cake, a very rich fruit cake. Nowadays it is more usual to treat mothers to a meal in a restaurant or buy chocolates and flowers — with prices going through the roof! This year this day falls on November, 26th. There is also an equivalent of Mother’s Day in Russia which is celebrated on the last Sunday in November. Mother's Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
Russia first celebrated the Defender of the Fatherland Day in 1922 as the fourth anniversary of the Red Army, becoming a public holiday in 2002. Throughout decades it was known as the Soviet Army and Navy Day before being renamed in 2006. Since military service is not obligatory in Great Britain, there is no celebration of that kind. However, Father’s Day honours fathers and father figures, with people making a special effort to visit their fathers or to send them a card or gifts. In more recent times traditional gifts of socks, ties, sweaters, slippers and tools have been widely substituted with “experiences”, including driving a fire engine, a rally car or a tank, flying an airplane or parachute jumping. The Father’s Day tradition was inspired by an American custom where it was introduced in contrast to Mother’s Day.
Surely, this is only a western tradition, or is it? To answer this question we decided to ask somebody from a completely different culture, or so it seemed.
A group of Iraqi students enthusiastically helped us. Murtasa Jassim, Saif Salam, Arsal Thaer, Mustafa Al-Attaby and Mohammed Al-Araje talked at length about traditional holidays and festivities and, particularly, Army Day and Mother’s Day in Iraq. It turns out that Muslims celebrate Christmas, the birth of Messiah (and many other Christian holidays) and New Year, Ramadan (26 May – 24 June this year, plus four more days of holidays) and St. Valentine’s Day (and if you do not have a girlfriend, you buy a present for your mum!). Army Day falls on 6th January and Mother’s Day is held on 16 April and they are celebrated pretty much the same way as in our country. So, we are not as different as it may seem.
Елена ЛАЗУТКИНА, ст. преподаватель кафедры иностранных языков для гуманитарных направлений ИФиЯК