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Women's Day In Bulgaria

March 8th is a big celebration in Bulgaria, be they mothers, grandmothers, teachers, single ladies or hot shot business women.

It coincides with International Women's Day, which has been celebrated officially since the dawn of the Communist era in the 1940s when it was popular throughout the Soviet bloc as a means of paying tribute to women's role in society and their fight for equal economic and social rights.

The History of International Women's Day

Women's Day started as a political event as part of the fight for women's rights and equality. It was adopted by many countries especially Russia and the Soviet bloc even though it originated in America. In Bulgaria it has little political status, but is nevertheless widely celebrated and respected especially as Bulgaria does not have a Mother's Day like many other countries. In 1909 in the USA, the Socialist Party of America declared that 28th February would be celebrated as the first International Women's Day.

In 1910 there was a devastating fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York and women's day was celebrated on March 8th the following year partly to commemorate the many ladies who died in the fire. The fire was said to have been caused by poor working conditions, which women had been protesting about since 1857. Women continued to stage marches and hold protests on March 8th and by 1911 International Women's Day was celebrated by over a million people in America, Austria, Denmark, Germany and on March 19th in Switzerland. On the eve of the First World War, March 8th 1913, the significance of the day expanded across Europe when European women held peace rallies and in 1917 demonstrations on International Women's Day in Russia marked the first stage of the Russian Revolution. Soon after the Bolshevik feminist Alexandra Kollontai convinced Lenin to make the day an official holiday and by 1965 it had become a public holiday from work, "in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples and the struggle for the peace."

The Celebration in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria Women's Day was first celebrated on March 8th by small groups of socialists in 1911 and in 1915 it was celebrated publically for the first time. It became officially recognised as a holiday after 1944 when the Communists seized control. Originally during Communism some factories and businesses celebrated the role of women in Bulgarian cultural, scientific, production and social life. After 1960 it became a much more festive event. Women's Day is respected by all including men who are obliged to give flowers to every woman in their life and this doesn't just mean mothers, wives and daughters but business colleagues and friends. Indeed, this day is the one day of the year where the streets of every town, city and village are full with flower vendors who for this day charge higher prices.

The press claim that this day is scorned by some feminists who claim they would rather be shown respect every day than for one day a year, however ordinary Bulgarian women along with expats who indulge in Bulgarian traditions enjoy the day to the full, which usually results in groups of ladies sharing a meal in a restaurant whilst husbands and partners stay home to look after the children or domestic arrangements. At the meal women make jokes about men and hand out home-made awards for ‘the women with the biggest heart,' (which is really the one with the largest bust). They eat Shopska salad a main course and desert and wash it down with Rakiya and wine and their men folk accept that this is their day to let their hair down. In schools teachers are given flowers and gifts and often stage moving plays dedicated to the love and beauty of each mother.