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Holidays in March
Text Elena Rubinova

Sunday March 15 Day of Community Social Service Workers and Municipal Economy

Street-cleaners and yard-keepers, carpenters and plumbers received acknowledgement and eternal glory in the Russian visual arts from famous artists at the turn of the century. A sad looking yardkeeper look on glumly from a painting by Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani and a suprematic carpenter has achieved immortality on the canvas of Kazimir Malevich. Much later – in 1966, the Soviet state established a special holiday for this category of employees called the Day of Trade and Social Workers. But the idea of service in those days still had a long way to go before it turned into anything like the level of service that modern community services and municipal economies expect now; well in some parts of the economy.

Thursday March 19 Day of Russian Submariners

This day was established as a professional holiday in 1996. The date was not chosen by accident. On that day in 1906, submarines were declared to be an independent class of war ships according to a decree of the last Russian Tzar Nicolas II.

Submarines play a special role in Russia’s Navy. Submarine service is not considered to be a job or a profession, but an aspect of somebody’s fate and a religion. The submariners’ holiday is a way of the Russian state acknowledging that submarines are very dangerous places, and that sailors are at risk every day. Submariners usually observe their professional holiday without any special pomp or any elaborate celebrations, and pay tribute to their perished friends and colleagues.

The Russian navy has experienced their fair share of submarine tragedies. On July 4, 1961, a nuclear accident occurred on the Soviet submarine K-19 in the Norwegian Sea. Her crew prevented a nuclear reactor meltdown and saved the world from a global nuclear disaster at the expense of their lives and health. This accident became widely known due to the recent screen version of Peter Huchthausen’s story, “K-19: The Widowmaker.” Harrison Ford warmed the hearts of Russian audiences in his role as Captain Alexei Vostrikov. In the mid 1980s, a missile exploded onboard a Yankee class submarine [a class of submarines built in the Soviet Union from 1968 onwards] off the coast of North Carolina and sunk while being towed back to Russia. One of Russia’s recent and the worst naval accident happened in the Barents Sea in 2000 when an explosion occurred aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk, killing all 118 seamen aboard.

Sunday 17th St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish: Lá ‘le Pádraig) is usually held to celebrate Saint Patrick (386-493), the patron saint of Ireland, on March 17. The holiday is marked worldwide by the Irish and increasingly by many of non-Irish descent.

In the short history of non-Russian holidays in Russia, Saint Patrick’s Day has become unbelievably popular and attracts more and more people each year. Just as everywhere else in the world, the city turns Irish for one day a year, and Lepricorns are to be seen staggering down Tverskaya. Both Christians and non-Christians celebrate the secular version of the holiday by wearing green, eating Irish food, imbibing Irish drink, and attending parades. For the first time in 1992, Moscow became part of the international hooley, celebrating Ireland’s contribution to culture and development around the world when Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov authorized the parade. Since then, colorful processions of musicians stun the Arbat on St. Patrick’s Day. Later in the evening, the crowd moves on to the pubs, including Moscow Irish Pubs such as Shamrock, Sally O’Brien’s, Rosie O’Gradies, to drink beer, chant folk songs and dance.

Religious Holidays in March

Orthodox Calendar

Great Lent (Velikii Post), March 2-April 18

March is ushered in with Great Lent (Velikii Post): it lasts for 40 days before Easter, drawing to an end on Good Friday. The Christian explanation of Lent is to mark the forty days that Christ wandered in the wilderness. What do people do during Lent? Restrain from negativity, regularly attend church services, and observe culinary restrictions: all meat, poultry, fish and derivatives thereof are considered off-limits, dairy products are also prohibited.

Not all Russians observe Lent - Russia is a huge country containing many minority faiths. Atheism left over from communist times is now mixed with a large dollop of westernization. Nevertheless most Moscow restaurants offer special Lent menus.

Jewish Calendar

Purim, March 10th (for 2009)

As winter turns into spring, it is the time of Purim. This was originally one of several spring-welcoming festivals. In Persian times, over 2,400 years ago, the Jewish people were granted the right to defend themselves and they defeated their enemies led by Haman. A holiday for feasting and celebration was established by Mordecai and Esther, to be celebrated each year on the fourteenth day of Adar according to Jewish calendar. The megilla lists four ways to celebrate Purim: reading the megilla, giving charity, giving gifts of food, and the festive meal. The hamantashen, the three-cornered filled cookie, remains the food of choice for Purim. The holiday is celebrated in all synagogues across Russia and CIS.

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