Tomorrow is March 8, a huge holiday in Russia. To think that I almost forgot if not for a friend who reminded me! Clearly, I've been living in the US too long :).
On March 8 the Russians celebrate "The International Women's Day." Like so many aspects of life in the Soviet Union, this was a politicized holiday, to celebrate the liberation of the Soviet woman from discrimination, domestic work, and whatever else she needed liberating from. Over the years, naturally, all political rhetoric ceased to have any meaning to normal people and this day turned into simply celebrating women for being women.
If it sounds odd to you, please know that I find it a little odd too. Unlike Mother's Day, you don't need to be a mom to be celebrated. Unlike Valentine's, you do not have to have a romantic partner to celebrate. All you need is to simply be a woman, no matter the age (and that's the best thing about this holiday: it is a great equalizer!).
The holiday is so big that it is actually an official day off for everyone in Russia. On that day, men give flowers to women in their lives: their wives, mothers, daughters, co-workers. Boys "congratulate" their female classmates and teachers. This is the day when people actually get together around festive tables with food and drinks; school parties are held; and even at the office it will not be strange to have some zakuski (hors d'oeuvres) and champagne.
Cakes and flowers are prominently featured, as befits a holiday in honor of women. Honey Cake is one of the favorites, as is the Zebra.
So here's to the International Women's Day!