February 23rd and March 8th: to Celebrate or Not to Celebrate? The Priests Answer

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In Belarus the 23rd of February and the 8th of March are official holidays the origins of which have a distinct Communist shade. Nevertheless it is a custom in the country to congratulate men and women with this holidays, different concerts and events are held and the streets are crowded with people carrying flowers and gifts.

But Should Christians join these festivities? That question KRYNICA.INFO asked the priests of different Belarusian confessions.

Sergy Lepin, the chairman of the Sinodal information department of Belarusian Orthodox Church:

– I do not see anything wrong in the very idea of celebrating on the 23rd of February the Day of the defenders of Fatherland and Belarusian Armed Forces. Similar patriotic holidays can be found almost in any country. Of course, historians can argue about the date being more suitable for the holiday. Personally, I do not celebrate the 23rd of February because I did not serve in the army and my pastoral duties are not connected with armed forces. Rare congratulations connected with this day only confuse me.

Several details of International Women Day’s history raise some concern among many Christian scholars. An idea is popular today among the Orthodoxes to replace the holiday doubtful from their point of view with homebrew analogs. These are, for example The Myrrhbearers Week (instead of 8th of March), the Family, Love and Loyalty Day in the memory of St. Peter and Febronia of Murom (instead of St. Valentine’s Day). Who knows, maybe something will replace Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day [jokes – ed.].

And though for me a possibility to congratulate women on the 8th of March does not pose a question of faith and morality, we do not celebrate this holiday in my family. Neither me nor my wife are, in general, interested in celebrating Soviet revolutinary holidays, including the Women Day. I concider this holiday as an internally inconsistent: being in theory dedicated to the struggle for female rights, in practice it is sexist itself.

Even if we will abstract from all this spirit of revolution and emansipatory pathos… if we will not remember Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg… you know, I think it isn’t right to congratulate a person with it being born as a man or a woman. 

A holiday must have a moral basis being of a spiritual, religious, historical or cultural nature. Also this basis must being accepted by every person celebrating it as a value. 

At the same time a holiday can be something private and individual, something being extremely important to a person.

There are common holidays being able to unite nations, or professional groups, or people of same religion. There are family holidays or personal memorable dates, the meaning of which is understood only by two… If somebody wants to make something pleasant to the beloved, why must one wait for a special day in the calendar? And if one does not, why should he? Because “it is a tradition” or beacuse “everybody does that”?

On the other hand, if somebody wants to present somebody flowers exactle on the 8th of March, why not?

Father Siarhey Surynovich, the dean of the, Holy Trinity Catholic church, Druya (Vitiebsk diocese):

– This question seems a bot provocative to me, having two dimensions. The first dimension is and ideological one, bringing these questions: what event this holiday is dedicated to, what is its meaning? The second one is an emotional dimension, bringing us such questions as “should we love and value our men and women?”.

Both of these holidays are connected with a Communist ideology. The first one celebrates the anniversary of creation of the Red Army with Joseph Stalin treating the events of February of 1918 as a “victory near Pskov and Narva”, which was supported by the USSR propaganda. The second one was established at the second Communist women convention in memory of involvement of women in Petrograd demonstration on March, the 8th in 1917 as one of the events preceding the February revolution. The tradition of celebrating this holiday is connected with revolutionary movements that brought many sufferings to people, including women and the Church. 

Should we love and value our mwn and women? – Yes. Their dignity, their vocation, their image of God born in their souls. The question is, should we do that one day a year or every day?

Pastor Aliaksei Sivalobaw, the Evangelist “New Life” church, Vitiebsk:

– According to Full Gospel Fellowship in Belarus neither the 23rd of February neither the 8th of March are the church holidays. We have three obligatory holidays: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Whether to celebrate the other holidays or not, every church decides for itself and there is plenty of them.

Answering the question whether the 23rd of February neither the 8th of March should be celebrated or not, everybody should have its own approach. Many elements of the history of these holidays are not suitable for Christians and they should not be celebrated if their original meaning is retained.

Today even the secular society gives another meaning to these holidays and celebrate them as Men’s and Women’s Days. And if they are considered as an opportunity to express an additional care to each other, to make a pleasnt present, to spend some time with people who are dear to us, I think they can be celebrated.

For example, in pur church we have a Fathers’ Day in February and Mothers’ Day in March. Children and adolescents prepare a concert programme consisting of songs, poetry, sketches. The parents organise a tea tavle with different sweet dishes.