One of the best things of living abroad is getting to know new festive days. These free days are not only a good opportunity to go on trips in the country, but also a lovely way to embrace a new culture! And I must say also one of the best ways to get to know and understand a culture. Another advantage is the fact that local population will really appreciate the effort you take in getting to know their culture. And making mistakes such as showing up in orange at Queensday the 30th of April although the Dutchies nowadays celebrate Kingsday at the 27th of April (for two years already) will only give people a good laugh.
Also Russia has got plenty of new holidays for me to discover and actually the Spring semester is the perfect time to do so. Besides all the general holidays such as Easter, I will be here when the Russians celebrate for instance the Cosmonautics Day, Pancake Week and the Defender of the Fatherland Day. Last week on the 23rd of February it was the Defender of the Fatherland Day. No need for us to be reminded of the fact that Russia is defending its fatherland, every day we can hear the deafening noise of fighter jets on their way to presumably Syria.
But this festive day díd declare the huge amount of Russia merchandise in the supermarkets. If I wanted I could have bought myself a whole new outfit plus interior coloured red-white-blue and decorated with tanks and badass Putin pictures. I controlled my urge to redecorate my room with the Russian tricolour and came home with just a sturdy cup saying ‘’The Russian Army: A Lifestyle’’ and a towel of the Russian flag.
At the start of the day we congratulated our landlady with the prazdnik (festive day). She smiled awkwardly to us, so apparently it was pretty weird to congratulate a woman on this day. During the day we found out that the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland was in fact kind of a “celebration of men’’ day. No wonder we also found cups saying ‘’Men are the Best’’ and that our landlady thought our congratulation was kind of out of place.
I’m wondering how many women actually used this day to thank their men for their efforts defending the country giving them a helium tank-shaped balloon or a plush animal dressed in a uniform. For me this day provided another view of the inside of Russian culture which is very proud of their army and manly men which should be fostered. I’m already looking forward to Women’s Day next Tuesday, I guess on that day our landlady wíll appreciate our congratulations. I’ll learn some day … hopefully 😉
By Evelijn Hillebrand