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Festive fireworks | ©
Festive fireworks | ©
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How to Celebrate Defender of the Fatherland Day Like a Russian

Picture of Dasha Fomina
Updated: 16 February 2017
On February 23, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day. The celebration dates back almost 100 years, and has its own unique list of traditions. Here’s what to do to enjoy Defender of the Fatherland Day like a Russian.

Call it Men’s Day

Originally known as Red Army Day, marking the creation of the Red (Soviet) Army in 1918, the holiday endured several name changes. The last one was in 2002 when it officially became a public holiday. Although the celebration has an obviously military origin, it’s more often referred to as the Men’s Day and is considered to be the male equivalent of International Women’s Day (March 8).

Wreath laying at the Kremlin Wall
Wreath laying at the Kremlin Wall | ©

Don’t miss the public celebrations

Since the holiday is a way of paying tribute to soldiers and war veterans, the large, exuberant public celebrations are mostly military-centric. Parades, parties, sporting events and concerts abound throughout Russia, while the president, in a company of military officials, attends a wreath laying ceremony beside the Kremlin.

Defender of the Fatherland Day gala event
Defender of the Fatherland Day gala event | ©

Watch the fireworks

Among all the commemorations of military might, obligatory salutes are by far the most spectacular. And while this holiday’s entertainment still can’t beat the grandeur of Victory Day (May 9), on February 23, 2017 in Moscow alone there will be as many as 16 sites to watch firework salutes.

Fireworks © Andrey / Flickr
Fireworks | © Andrey / Flickr

Attend an office party

February 23 is a public holiday, so all corporate events usually take place the day before or after. The scale of celebrations depends on the size of the company, but in most cases the men get small gifts and celebratory food. However in some offices they take a more creative approach and celebrate with some sort of a retreat or invite a stripper.

Members of an historic club wearing 1812-era French army uniforms © Dmitri Lovetsky/AP Photo
Members of an historic club wearing 1812-era French army uniforms | © Dmitri Lovetsky/AP Photo

Do some gift shopping

This is the time when women go on a gift shopping spree and buy presents for important men in their lives, not just boyfriends or husbands, but also fathers, brothers, teachers and sometimes co-workers. Small gifts are more common, with socks, cologne and shaving cream being favorites, but more women choose to buy expensive and personal gifts these days. In schools male teachers get greeting cards from their students, usually the ones they’ve made at themed arts & crafts workshops. School girls often give small presents to boys in their class.

Watch a military movie on TV

Although on this day Russia celebrates men as a whole, the idea is that all men can potentially defend their country when the time comes. So there are lots of military movies on TV and watching all-time classic like Only Old Men Are Going to Battle or Six P.M. is a very common way to spend the holiday evening, especially for older generation.

Russian soldiers march during a welcoming ceremony for Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia © Cherie Cullen.
Russian soldiers march | © Cherie Cullen.

Have a family dinner

As a rule, private celebrations are on a much smaller scale that the public ones and in no way related to military achievements, unless a man is or used to be a soldier. To celebrate this day, couples usually stay at home and have a hearty family dinner.

…Or a guys’ night out

This is probably the only time of year when women somewhat willingly allow their men a to have a night out drinking with the guys. Needless to say, the men happily take advantage of such dispensation.