Women’s Day in Poland isn’t just some random holiday – it’s born from a rich and gritty history. I can tell you, it’s much more than a celebration of the women’s hard work, as viewed through the lens of a bygone communist era. If you want to envision the past, think of posters with radiant, young ladies, operating heavy machinery, or steering tractors. Yet, it wasn’t a utopian paradise as it seemed – the reality was far from it.
The narrative behind the Women’s Day we celebrate every 8th of March isn’t all sunshine and roses. The dawn of the 20th century, a time when women had no voice, no rights to vote or pursue education, or simply make their own choices. But one day, a woman decided she had enough.
Women’s Day – Struggles And Triumphs
This pivotal moment occurred in a factory in New York, where countless women toiled for a mere pittance. It was an ordinary day until a handful of these women, fueled by indignation, went on strike.
The factory owner, taken aback by this unexpected defiance, didn’t know how to respond. To mull over this predicament, he decided to confer with other factory owners. But before leaving, he confined these irate women to the factory floor.
↳ PRO TIP: Do you like traveling? Then before you buy any ticket or book an attraction, check if it's available in this worldwide Viator Database. You may save a lot of money and time. No need to thank me :)
Then tragedy struck – a fire broke out, claiming the lives of more than a hundred women. I believe it’s worth to say that the aftermath of this tragedy sparked such public fury that people across the city took to the streets in protest. The year was 1909, and this marked the first step towards women’s equality.
The Twist of The Women’s Day
Following this tumultuous event, the socialists of that era, sensing a golden opportunity, capitalized on the social upheaval. They propagated the idea that they were the catalysts behind these strikes, and they pledged to better the plight of women. However, the first Women’s Day proclamation wasn’t in America, but rather in Denmark.
Exactly one year after the New York protests, the Socialist International of Copenhagen initiated Women’s Day. This was designed to endorse the notion of gender equality and garner public support. The Seed of Equality was Sown. Then, the communists co-opted this holiday, a tale I’ll share later.
Matronalia – An Ancestor to Women’s Day
Before Women’s Day became a thing, the Romans had a festival called Matronalia. Imagine, if you will, a day when the end of winter was celebrated with a festival of fertility on March 1. On this day, it was women who held the reins, ruling the houses and streets of Rome. They flocked to the temples in droves, exchanging gifts and offerings.
Inside the temples of Juno (a goddess akin to the Greek deity Hera), they prayed for a blessed marriage and the benevolence of other gods. Men, too, presented flowers and tokens of affection to the women. I think it is worth saying that this was one of the rare occasions when slaves were traeted to meals from their Roman masters’ tables.
Women’s Day – The Polish Celebrations
Fast forward to a different time and place. In a bid to inject meaning into the daily grind of life under the motto „the people need bread and circuses,” the communists introduced various holidays. Miners got St. Barbórka, teachers, police officers, and women all had their own days of honor, with Women’s Day celebrated annually on March 8.
Typically, the women would receive chocolates and flowers, lightening their load for the day. A Day Away from Daily Chores, both at work and at home. Husbands would take over the kitchen, bosses would be unusually pleasant, and the day would end with everyone gathered in a restaurant for a well-deserved feast, often rounded off with a strong drink.
That was how it was in our country during the grim period of socialism. But what about the rest of the world? We’ll dive into that next.
Women’s Day Around the World
Women’s Day is not just a celebration in our homeland, but it is also embraced with fervor in many countries around the globe. Most of the former Warsaw Pact nations, such as Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, to name just a few, take part in these festivities every March 8.
But it doesn’t end there. The celebration of Women’s Day isn’t confined to the former Eastern Bloc. Italians, Cubans, Albanians, Vietnamese, Brazilians, Algerians, and even the folks in Zambia and Cameroon get into the spirit.
Despite the different cultures, the traditions are remarkably similar, with minor variations. If you’re in Italy, you’ll find women receiving acacia branches instead of cloves, which is our local custom. In Russia and Romania, the tradition is similar. Some countries see women heading out to evening parties, spending a night among themselves.
In the UK, however, the story is a little different. Both men and women congregate at exhibitions and lectures discussing the role of women in various aspects of life – be it social, cultural, or scientific.
They organize meet-ups with prominent women and debates on how to further enhance the lives of women globally. Interestingly, their official Women’s Day is April 8, but the main events usually happen on April 10. Gift-giving to women isn’t trendy there.
Did You Know? Women’s Day Trivia
- The first Women’s Day in Poland was celebrated on March 24, 1924.
- Austria, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland joined the celebrations in 1911.
- In the USSR, March 8 became a public holiday and a day off work in 1965.
- Women’s Day made its debut in Belgium in 1910.
- During the 1980s in Poland, Women’s Day wasn’t popular as it was deemed a „forced” day of joy, similar to May 1.
- It ceased to be a public holiday in Poland in 1993.
- Nowadays, many young people consider March 8 a delightful holiday and an excuse to have fun.
- In the days of intense communism, it was common to publish photos of meritorious women on March 8 to highlight their contributions to society.
- The once-popular carnations are now being replaced by tulips and roses.
- Recent studies reveal that more than 70% of men plan to buy flowers for their significant others on March 8.
- Women’s Day is celebrated twice in Vietnam – on March 8 and October 20.
- Women in Romania and Portugal celebrate this day among themselves.
- Carnations and tulips are considered the symbols of Women’s Day.