In Soviet Russia, there were a lot of strange (socialist and secular) days to celebrate that were created by the communist leaders. But people kind of went with it. Who would argue with getting a day off? The communists either created completely new days of celebration or replaced older celebration days that didn’t fit the party line with days that were more appropriate to the communist agenda.  It is very interesting to investigate what these days stood for originally, what the new communism inspired, what new meanings were given and what these days now mean to the Russian people.

31st December – 5th January : The New Year’s Celebration Days

The reason this is such a long holiday is because it’s basically a secular Christmas. Russian Christmas is on the 7th of January but communists banned its celebration, as religion was a notion that did not suit the regime. Instead, Russian people celebrated the New Year for longer and with the same intensity as other countries celebrated Christmas. The New Year celebrations usually involve dinner, fireworks, and speeches. People still do this today because they are used to it from the communist era.

7th January: Christmas (by the Eastern Orthodox calendar)

Before Communism, during the tsarist times, Christmas was celebrated. Some people have gone back to that and yet most still celebrate the New Year and give their presents on this day. On the 7th of January only very religious people will do the praying and eat special ‘traditional’ Orthodox Christmas food. This is not as popular as the New Year celebrations or as Christmas is in the UK, US, and Europe, even though Russia is no longer under communist rule.

23rd of February: The Soviet Army Day

During the Communist regime this day celebrated Russia’s army and navy, similar to the American Memorial and Veteran Days. Now Russian people call it Protector of the Motherland Day but for some reason have also decided to make it Men’s Day, an alternative to Women’s Day and give presents to all men, even those who have nothing to do with the military.

8th March: International Women’s Day

Pretty similar to Mother’s Day but in socialist countries this celebration has been given a new twist, with all women sharing in the celebrations. Whilst it’s supposed to celebrate women’s equality, it was turned into a day where women are treated romantically and given gifts like flowers and chocolates. Kind of like another St.Valentine’s Day essentially. These days, now that the political undertones aren’t as important, Russian women simply think of it as a day when they should be looked after and treated well.

12th April: The Cosmonautics Day

In the times of the USSR regime, this was the celebration day of the first manned spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin. Interestingly, in 2011 this day was declared as an International Day of Human Space flight. As part of the celebration, the grave of Yuri Gagarin and other monuments related to space were visited. It’s actually still celebrated but in a less state-enforced way and at a far smaller scale.

1st May: The International Workers’ Day

This day was originally used to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, when police fired at striking workers who were protesting against an 8-hour day. Communists of course attached a communist meaning to this.

On this day, masses were herded off to demonstrate in order to celebrate the labour movement. It’s also associated with trade unions.  During the peaceful demonstrations, party leaders would greet the workers walking the streets and also there would be army parades. In Moscow, the party leaders stood on top of Lenin’s tomb which is on the Red Square, in the centre of the city, and waved to the passing crowds and made speeches.

Since 1992 (the collapse of the USSR), it’s been renamed to ‘The Day of Spring and Labour’, and people just enjoy their day off.  It’s basically like May Day in the UK now, just another Bank Holiday.

9th May: Victory Day

This is another parade and fireworks day to celebrate victory over Germany in the Second World War. These days it’s not celebrated as grandly or publically but many people still participate despite the massive losses suffered. It’s become more popular again since Putin came to power.

 

Read more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_Russia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_the_Soviet_Union