Well, we made it through February, and spring is right around the corner! The trees are sprouting little buds, birdsong is in the air, and warm golden sunshine is finally starting to thaw our frozen hearts. Few things bring such joy as the first heralds of la primavera (springtime); for many, one such cheerful messenger is International Women’s Day. Celebrated the world over on March 8, this lesser-known holiday takes time to honor ladies everywhere just for being their (our) amazing and unique selves. Truth be told, I’d never even heard of International Women’s Day until moving to Italy. But there it’s known as La Festa della Donna (Party of the Woman), which I kinda like more! So let’s dive right in. Andiamo (ahn-dee-AH-moe) … let’s go!
In Italia (Italy), they really know how to put on a good festa (party) and La Festa della Donna is no exception. Italy has been celebrating La Festa della Donna as a nation on March 8 since 1946 (shortly after being liberated by the Allies in the Second World War). However, it’s believed that the very first women’s day festivities were held in Chicago in the early 1900s. Although the concept of commemorating national women’s days has been in circulation in various countries and in various ways all around the world for well over a century, it didn’t become globally recognized until 1977, when the United Nations officially declared the 8th of March as International Women’s Day. So, you know, it’s kind of a big deal!
One of the best things about La Festa della Donna is that adorable little bunch of canary yellow flowers below. Have you ever smelled Heaven? OK, well, I haven’t either. But if I
had, I’m pretty sure it would smell exactly like those mimosa flowers right there. Ah, mimosa flowers—quite possibly THE most beautiful fragrance I’ve ever smelled. I haven’t smelled one in years, but the thought of the lingering perfume enraptures me still. Rich, yet delicate, sweet, light and airy. Heaven. Just Heaven. And this angelically joyful flower just happens to be the symbol of La Festa della Donna. The women of Italy chose this fluffy, pre-spring bloom to symbolically represent the occasion because, although they look very delicate, mimosas are actually quite strong and hearty (just like women!). As a bonus, they are prolific throughout Italia at this time of year. Men and boys give these yummalicious flowers to their nonne (grandmas), mogli (wives), figlie (daughters), and pretty much all the women in their lives. Yes, it’s adorable. But what I find most inspiring is that it’s even more common for women to give beautiful sprigs of mimosa to each other. It’s such a touching gesture—all the feels!
While Valentine’s Day may be for lovers, La Festa della Donna is all about women, women and more women! No matter where you go on this day you will see droves of women out and about celebrating each other. Moms with daughters, sisters with sisters, grandmothers with granddaughters, friends with friends. There are groups of women everywhere, large and small. Literally. Everywhere. Park benches, small bistro cafes, city buses, piazze (town squares), fancy restaurants, you name it. Most are interlocked hand in hand or arm in arm. Sure, you’re thinking, “Well, of course there are women around during a festival that celebrates them,” but it’s actually very weird and surreal. Seeing nothing but joyful women
everywhere you look, most of them carrying fluffy mimosa flowers, is really strange. But in the best possible way. It’s like a zombie apocalypse of beautiful, amazing women all around. There is such a palpable atmosphere of common sisterhood that this beauty, more than anything else, is what makes this day so special. It’s truly moving.
La Festa della Donna (and indeed the global celebration of International Women’s Day) originated as a way for women throughout the world to say to each other, “I see you,” “I appreciate you,” and “You matter,” way back during a time when society devalued and overlooked half of its citizens. This sentiment was key in the long-fought battle for women’s suffrage and other equal rights under the law. Though much has changed for the better in the 100-plus years since International Women’s Day had its beginnings, there is still much ground to cover so that women in every country around the world are afforded the same respect and opportunities as men. This holiday is a great reminder to stick together, celebrate the joy of being women and speak up for those who can’t.
If you’re ever in Italia during La Festa della Donna, do make time to participate in this amazingly inspiring holiday (whether you’re a woman or a man). Grab a generous handful of mimosa flowers at the corner fioraio (florist) and pass them out to the women you encounter as you’re out and about. Find a group of women to celebrate with. Italians are notoriously friendly, so jump right in. Many places will have special menus and half-price foods and drinks, like the bar (cafe), pub (bar) and ristorante (restaurant).There are even special events, such as art exhibitions, dedicated to the day. But, hey, no need to wait until you’re in Italy. Go out and celebrate today (masked and socially distanced, of course) on this International Women’s Day and reaffirm to the ladies in your sphere of influence that they matter. You’ll be glad you did!
Ciao for now!