February 23 – Defender of the Fatherland Day
Today, on February 23, Russia celebrates the Defender of the Fatherland Day. According to the established tradition, on this day we congratulate not only the current defenders of the Fatherland, but also the potential ones, i.e. all men young and old.
This date is also important for the Second World War (Great Patriotic War) veterans, for them it is the second most important holiday after May 9 – the Victory Day.
Today we will tell you how the holiday of February 23 originated and how it is celebrated nowadays.
The story of the holiday
Initially, the date was called the “Day of the Red Army and Navy”, although the Decree on the organization of the “Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” (RKKA) itself was passed much earlier, on January 15, 1918. According to the main theory, on February 23, 1918, the Red Army had its first military clashes with the troops of Kaiser Germany near Pskov and Narva, thanks to which the German offensive was halted for some time.
In 1946 the “Red Army” was renamed to “Soviet Army”, so the holiday got a new name too: the “Day of the Soviet Army and Navy”. All the soldiers were traditionally honored on this day (after the war virtually every citizen could attribute himself to them). Gradually, all men, even those who never served in the army, started receiving congratulations on that day.
In 1995, the State Duma passed a law according to which the February 23 got a new name – the “Victory Day of the Red Army over the Kaiser troops of Germany in 1918 – Defender of the Fatherland Day”. However, this very long and having little to do with the actual facts name (the Germans were only halted, not defeated) lasted only a few years. And all this time February 23 was a working day.
In 2002, the State Duma passed a resolution to name the 23 of February the “Defender of the Fatherland Day” and declared it a non-working day.
February 23 nowadays
Modern “Defender of the Fatherland Day” kept its military coloring, but its scope is not limited to the military. This is a celebration of valor, courage, honor, and love to the motherland. On this day, it is customary to congratulate men of all professions and ages, including the youngest ones. In many companies and institutions, women pool together a reasonable amount of money to buy symbolic gifts for men or to organize a small banquet at the end of the working day. Considering that the 8 of March – the International Women’s Day – comes soon after February 23, it all results in a mutual exchange of small gifts and attention.
But not only men are honored on February 23. There are also a great number of women who are engaged now or were engaged in the past in the defense of their homeland. On this day, the employees of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, veterans of the Great Patriotic War and other military operations get traditional greetings from the leadership of the country. Wreaths and bouquets of flowers are laid on the monuments of heroic warriors. Television and radio broadcast thematic concerts and congratulatory speeches. In the evening, in the hero-cities (hero-city is Soviet honorary title awarded to some Russian cities for outstanding heroism during World War II), as well as in the settlements where the military installations are located, the sky is lit by festive fireworks.