Explainer: Women’s Day history and celebrations in Hungary
Photo : Norbert Juhász/We Love Budapest
07/3/2016, 12:27 PM●4-minute article
Every year on March 8th, Budapest becomes a blossoming metropolis as men express gratitude for the ladies of their lives by giving them beautiful bouquets and delightful gifts in honor of International Women’s Day. While this global celebration draws attention to the paramount role of women worldwide, here in Hungary it is observed with remarkable enthusiasm thanks to varied historical reasons – we provide a brief overview of this holiday’s past, and suggestions for some of the city’s best flower shops.
As the working day begins on March 8th, most Magyar men await their female colleagues with a symbolic present like a chocolate-infused treat or a blossoming tulip, and as Women’s Day proceeds, many nice gestures are presented towards women across Hungary: children offer handpicked blooms to their female teachers, while husbands greet their wives with a scarlet bouquet of roses as an expression of deep affection.
This compassionate series of deeds at the onset of spring represents a sign of respect towards women in Hungary, similarly to the goings-on in many countries worldwide on March 8th, which is observed in honor of the centuries-long struggle by womankind for fair treatment and equality. Women’s Day has many different roles and meanings in various societies, but for Hungarians it is especially hallowed, thanks to the particulars of the holiday’s long history.
The origins of Women’s Day date back to February 28th of 1909 in New York, observed in honor of female laborers who went on strike for better working conditions in the garment industry. Fueled by the success of their efforts, Women’s Day grew into a globally revered phenomenon, first held across numerous European countries on March 19th, 1911.
In Russia, this new holiday was incorporated into the rising Socialist movement, and on March 8th in 1917, masses of women rallied in St. Petersburg to demand the end of World War I, the end of Czarist rule, and protesting against food shortages. Four days after the uprising – due to a combination of increasing pressures – Czar Nicholas II abdicated his rule, and the new civilian government granted voting rights to women across Russia. After this successful movement, most of the world came to acknowledge March 8th as International Women’s Day.
In Hungary, Women’s Day was first observed in 1913, when the National Organizing Committee for Women handed out flyers to draw attention to the growing international event, and to emphasize women’s equality. A year later, Hungarian women vigorously asserted their rights at various happenings and locations countrywide, and after the conclusion of World War II – at the onset of Hungary’s era under Soviet control – the Communist government declared Women’s Day as a mandatory celebration, and fixed its date on March 8th based on the Russian observance.
In the western world, International Women’s Day was first declared as an official event in 1977, when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8th as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
Even though the observance of Women’s Day in Hungary has lost some of its importance after the country’s régime change in 1989, celebrations here on March 8th are no longer politically motivated, but are instead a genuine display of appreciation for the role of women in society. Women’s Day is characterized by abundant aromatic blooms, scrumptious delicacies, and a variety of little trinkets bestowed to ladies out of respect, gratitude, and everlasting love. Hungarians continue to honor this sweet holiday in ways that are reminiscent of Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, when flower stores are filled with men looking to procure vibrantly-hued bouquets for the women that make their lives possible.
Those who want to join in the cheerful Women’s Day customs can choose from the selections of vibrant flowers available at any of the many florist shops around Budapest: Arioso on Király utca in District VII creates creative compositions with artistic expertise; Jutka Virág on Ráday utca produces wonderful bouquets, thanks to Jutka herself, whose family opened the store in 1956. Anyone who forgets to attain flowers during normal business hours can head to Jászai Mari tér, where a duo of flower kiosks await late-night patrons around the clock on either side of Szent István körút on the Pest side of Margaret Bridge.