Happy International Women’s Day and a look at how immigrants celebrate their holidays

When I was growing up the 8th of March – International Women’s Day – was one of our most favorite holidays.  Everyone got a day off, mothers/grandmothers/female teachers and professionals got flowers and gifts and even the boys in school (no matter the grade!) brought every girl something.  No one much cared about the political undertones of this holiday (well, at least in the day and age of my childhood) and mostly the holiday represented a chance to express gratitude and honor women in our lives.

When I moved to the US – immigrated to be exact – I was very surprised to find out that no one knew what 8th of March even was!  After all I could remember the reports on state-controlled television that countries in Europe and Asia celebrated it.  It was strange that the US didn’t, but that’s not the point.  The point is that from that time forward the 8th of March began to slowly lose its significance.  With no one around us celebrating it, we slowly stopped too.

Today this made me wonder about how other immigrants hold on to those special celebrations when they leave the country of their birth for good.  If they live in a culture that simply doesn’t honor their holidays, what do they do to hold on to them?  And how do they pass them on to their children (if at all)?

There is a difference here between expatriates and immigrants.  Expatriates know that they will at some point be leaving and moving on to another country (or home) and that they are always going to be American, French, Russian, Canadian, etc no matter where they go – so their holidays for the most part stay with them, no matter how neglected they may have been during the period of expatriation.  The immigrants though go through the process of blending their birth identity with their adopted one and thus may lose those holidays forever.

Your thoughts?

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2 responses to “Happy International Women’s Day and a look at how immigrants celebrate their holidays

  1. Margarita, we are thinking about things on the same wavelength. There are two points I’d like to share.

    1. International Women’s Day is also celebrated in India. Lots of programs were going on here today, but since we ‘did not know about it’ being from USA, we missed out. 😦
    (Ironically, anything outside US marked international US is not really part of usually, and anything in US marked International or World (aka World Series) is usually not world/international!)

    2. Your initiation of expat vs. immigrant is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately and I will be writing about that on my blog as soon as I get some clearer thoughts on it myself.

    Thanks for this thought provoking article.

  2. I learned about International Women’s Day when we lived in Azerbaijan and I think it’s a fabulous way to celebrate women’s achievements. So much more empowering and inclusive than Valentine’s Day or Mothers’ Day. Now that we’re back in Canada we continue to send greeting to all our Russian and Azeri female friends by email/text and Facebook. My husband even wished all the women in his new Canadian office a Happy International Women’s Day yeserday; they were thrilled. 🙂

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