Further from the USSR: why February 23 is an alien holiday for Ukrainians

Yulia LoseynkoLife
On February 23, you can celebrate any of the following alternative holidays

Old habits die hard, so tomorrow some Ukrainians will still want to celebrate February 23, which they consider to be the holiday of the defender of the homeland. Some people still consider it a "man's" day and congratulate all male acquaintances on it. But this is absolutely not worth doing.

OBOZREVATEL explains how this "holiday" is connected to the aggression against Ukraine. And suggests what can replace it if you really want to celebrate something.

The history of February 23

The reason for the establishment of the holiday was the anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Red Army, which was historically occupying Ukraine. The official day of its creation is February 23, 1918. January 27, 1922 was recognised as a holiday. Its name has changed over time:

  • 1922 - Red Army Day
  • 1946 - Day of the Soviet Army
  • 1949 - Day of the Soviet Army and Navy

After the collapse of the USSR, the holiday was inherited by many countries that emerged on its territory. In particular, it was celebrated in Ukraine under the name Defender of the Fatherland Day. It is still celebrated in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. But this day is especially revered in Russia, where it is included in the list of "days of military glory". Like May 9, the Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War, the Kremlin uses this date for propaganda purposes, glorifying its occupation forces.

February 23 in Ukraine

After Ukraine gained independence, the date of February 23 gradually lost its significance. The prestige and role of the army in society gradually declined in those years, so citizens began to perceive it as a gendered date - a day to congratulate men and boys, reinforcing the stereotype that they should be defenders first and foremost. At the same time, the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been celebrated on December 6 since 1993.

Everything changed after the start of Russian aggression in 2014. Then, during the Independence Day celebrations, the fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko announced that February 23 would no longer be a public holiday in Ukraine, as it was a holiday from the military and historical calendar of the Russian Federation. At the suggestion of Volodymyr Vyatrovych, then head of the Institute of National Memory, Poroshenko established the Day of the Defender of Ukraine, which is celebrated on October 14, the day of the Orthodox holiday of the Intercession. It is also the Day of the Ukrainian Cossacks. In August 2021, the sixth president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, changed the name of the new holiday, emphasising the contribution of women to the defence of the state. Since then, it has been called the Day of Defenders of Ukraine.

What to celebrate instead

If you still want to celebrate something on February 23, you can choose something to your liking from a large list of official and unofficial holidays. For example, the World Day of Understanding and Peace falls on the same date. Or Diesel Engine Day - on this day in 1893, Rudolf Diesel received a patent for a diesel engine. Or even International Dog Biscuit Day, a treat that helps people and dogs get along better.

In gratitude for Japan's help, Ukrainians can celebrate Emperor Naruhito's birthday on February 23, when he will turn 63. And Americans, being big fans of honouring everything they like, unofficially celebrate National Banana Bread Day, National Chilli Day and National Toast Day on this date - it can be considered that the festive menu has developed by itself. The US also celebrates Tennis Day and a day in honour of the fact that curling, which many people consider to be a rather gimmicky sport, is really cool.

What is the Orthodox holiday on February 23

Believers of the Orthodox Church can honour Saints Prochorus and Haralampus on this date. Prokhor, by the way, was a monk of the Pechersk Monastery in Kyiv. He became famous for baking bread from quinoa in times of famine and distributing it to the needy. Thanks to his blessing, the bitter quinoa became sweet and tasted better than real bread. If someone took his bread without his blessing, they received bitter grass. The monk was also able to turn ashes into salt. For this miracle, Prokhor was nicknamed the Lobodnik. The saint had such an influence on the Kyivan prince Sviatopolk Izyaslavych that he made him repent of all his sins. After Prokhor's death, the prince personally buried him in the Near Caves of the Lavra next to the tomb of the founder of the monastery, Anthony.

In addition to Prokhor, Valentina, Anna, Galina, Simon, Harlampiy, Anton, and Arkady should also be congratulated on their name days on February 23.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told about the traditions of Forgiveness Sunday in Ukraine, which is celebrated on February 26 this year.

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