Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tanti auguri: It's the Festa della Donna


Thursday, March 08
Everybody ran off the train,
including our conductor, to
pick mimosa from this tree
at our Montecarlo/San
Salvatore station.
Americans are notorious for turning meaningful holidays into expensive commercial spending sprees. With that in mind, I am surprised that our florists haven’t tried to import La Festa della Donna from Italy to America. When I first heard of this day, I mistakenly assumed it was an Italian version of Mother’s Day, but no, it is separate from Mother’s Day, which is celebrated here the second Sunday in May, the same as in most countries.

According to an article in Lifeinitaly.com, International Women’s Day began as political event, founded by women’s groups to show solidarity in their struggles for equality.   In 1945 the Unione Donna Italiana declared that March 8 should be set aside to celebrate womanhood across the country. Now the political aspect has diminished, and it is viewed by many as “simply an occasion for men to express their love to the women around them.”

The article goes on to say: “Italians are fond of this celebration, even if some criticize it as being an excuse used by men to make up for a year-long of neglect toward their partners. While it is true that men should show their love and care every day of the year, we Italians appreciate having a special day reserved for us.”

The Women’s Union also chose the mimosa flower as an emblem of the event, which is suitable because the bright yellow flowers symbolize vitality and joy, and despite their delicate look, they are surprisingly resilient. It is traditional for men to buy sprigs of mimosa to give to women, although the flower stands have other bouquets to offer as well.

As I board the train in San Salvatore for another trip to Lucca, a group of teenagers are exiting after a day at school, and they hurry over to a large mimosa tree growing alongside the tracks. They break off some small branches heavy with blossoms, and then both the train engineer and conductor jump off and break off some sprigs. It seems they have all found a way to honor the donne in their lives without spending a cent.

Mimosa sprigs ready to be given away.
Later as I walk through Lucca, I find a vendor in a piazza busily selling mimosa and other flowers. A small bundle of mimosa, elegantly wrapped in paper and a ribbon, of course, sells for 4 euro, and I buy one to give to Laura, who was our Italian teacher last year. After finishing my business, I return and pluck my own mimosa bouquets at the San Salvatore station. Then I stop at the grocery store and buy some wrapping paper and ribbon so that I can make my own elegant bouquets at home. I give Lucy a whole vase full and then wrap up sprigs to give to the women at our agriturismo—Gilda, Roberta and Claudia.

In looking up info about this day, I kept coming across the same poem. Though I was not able to determine the original source, I will cite the words here because they reflect well the way I feel about my own lovely donne, particularly my wife and four daughters.

Senza le donne finirebbe il mondo: mancherebbe la dolcezza, mancherebbe l'amore di una mamma, mancherebbe il sorriso di una fanciulla, mancherebbe la voglia di vivere. Auguri alle donne, che mandano avanti il mondo.

Without women the world would end: lacking sweetness, lacking a mother’s love, lacking the smile of a child, lacking the will to live. Congratulations to the women, who run the world.




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