Festa della Donna – International Women’s Day
If you happen to be in Italy on March 8th you will see women carrying bunches of a yellow flower called Mimosa. Should you be in Milan or Rome you may also find yourself in the middle of a demonstration with thousands of women chanting slogans and carrying signs. It is the International Woman’s day and has become the primary period for everything political having to do with women’s rights.
There are various stories regarding the origins of Women’s day. The most reliable I have found goes like this:
In March of 1908 in New York, the workers of a cotton cloth plant went on strike to protest working conditions. The strike lasted for several days until the owner of the plant became very upset, closed and locked all of the doors and exits and set fire to the plant. The 129 women inside were burned to death. Following this episode, Rosa Luxemburg, proposed that this day become an annual event to protest, around the world, for Women’s rights.
For the first years the day was simply a memorial to the horrible episode however, with the expansion of the feminist movements, this day become a focal point for manifestations to bring attention to the arguments of the feminist associations.
Today, very few women know the original reason for the eighth of March however it has become a commercial opportunity for the florists, more important than Valentines day. It is said that the Mimosa, ACACIA PODALYRIIFOLIA, symbolizes the wild flowers in the field around the building that was burned. It is custom to give a branch of Mimosa to every woman you know. Although Americans, as tourist, are not expected to adhere to this custom, should you present the female workers with a small branch of mimosa they will surely appreciate it.
Women’s day is an important part of recent Italian culture. Most people will have tried the drink Mimosa or the dessert Mimosa, both of which are tied to the popularity of the flower during the early days of March.
Many women have taken the eighth of March to be “Girl’s Night Out”. Again, they have no clue why, but it is seen a slightly rebellious act and is widely accepted. When I say “Girl’s Night Out” I mean bachelorette party type of activities. Therefore ladies, if you intend to visit Italy in the spring you may want to include the eighth of March in your planning.
For me, all I can say is, “Viva le Donne!”