Fabulous Festivals : Celebrating Women in Eastern Europe

March 8 in Ukraine is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in the former Soviet Union. School is out. Businesses are closed. Every street corner is filled with flower-vendors. Heck, it was even the reason for our most recent four-day weekend (jealous yet?)!

I'm talking about International Women's Day!

This is the day (or long weekend) when all women are queens and, frankly, it's AWESOME! The day before school was out for the holiday, we celebrated with our colleagues in the department, and the spread was welcoming indeed:

And the men passed the time each taking turns throughout to toast us women with the most eloquent of words (no vodka needed, but definitely encouraged), and presenting us with lovely flowers:

On the actual day of this wonderful womanly holiday, I was invited by a fellow English teacher and friend, Olga, to her sister's house in the little village of Petrovka, about 45 minutes outside of Lugansk:

You'll probably be surprised to learn this (wink, wink), but in Ukraine, every celebration is anchored with loads and loads of food (and booze!). When you think you're full, out comes another plate of something tasty:

Ukraine's president, Victor Yanukovych, giving his Women's Day speech, and promising to go and visit his grade school teacher. Yes, for real:

When a bottle of homemade Kahlua "mysteriously" made it to our table, we decided to pack it up with some food (of course) and take it with us on a walk through the village and into the woods:

Longest name ever for what is presumably a teeny little village on the plains:

Picnicking on a tree about 15 miles from the Russian border:

Best part about walks in Ukraine? You seriously never know what you're going to come upon. People leave behind the darndest things sometimes:

Once back at the house again, we finished the Women's Day celebration with that classic Ukrainian meal: sushi! No, wait--what!?

Yes, sushi! And it was fun, although some of us could use a little more practice:

For my first Women's Day, I'd say it was celebrated successfully! I may not agree with those big-wig collective communists who used to rule these lands, but the Soviets sure did leave behind some fantastic reasons to celebrate!

Happy International Women's Day, everyone!