If you happen to be in Russia during the first week of May you may be a bit confused as to what’s going on. The first week to ten days of May the whole country goes on spring break to celebrate a series of public holidays. Most banks, public buildings and educational institutions are closed, and everyone has time off to take a vacation or pour into the streets to celebrate the coming of spring.
Because many national holidays in Russia fall at the beginning of May, the government traditionally compile them into one long break known as “May holidays”. It always starts on the 1st of May and lasts for 9 or 10 days. This period is one of the most important and festive public holiday events in Russia. A lot of people gather in the streets to celebrate spring, take part in peaceful demonstrations, parades and other numerous outdoor activities.
The Russian May holidays start with Spring and Labor Day observed on May 1st. Previously known as the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers the holiday lost its political meaning in Russia after 1991. Some political parties and labor unions still organize May 1st demonstrations, but most Russians use this public holiday to relax with family and friends. People prefer to spend time outdoors, have picnics or barbecues. Men may give spring flowers to women, and parents may buy balloons and sweet gifts to their children to celebrate the end of the long winter season in Russia.
The series of May holidays in Russia end with the second most popular public holiday after New Year’s – Victory Day. The celebration commemorates the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II and honors the bravery of millions of Russian people whose heroism saved the country from Nazi invaders.
Victory Day is a sacred holiday for Russians who often say that there is not a single family in the country who did not lose someone in that war. On this day festive events are held all across Russia, with military parades taking place in all major cities, the most spectacular one in Moscow’s Red Square culminating in grandiose firework display.
At home, families gather around a festive table to honor surviving witnesses of World War II and remember those who passed away. There’s a tradition to give Victory Day flowers, usually red carnations, to all veterans and to lay wreaths at the war memorial sites.
May Holidays Symbols:
- Flowers (especially tulips and lilacs) – symbols of late spring.
- Blooming branches of fruit trees – a symbol of approaching summer.
- Balloons – a symbol of celebration.
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