Flowers and Male Strippers to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Many countries throughout the world (but not the US) celebrate March 8th as International Women’s Day, in Italy known as the Festa della Donna.

Everyone is supposed to show their appreciation for women’s achievements on this day. Men take their female colleagues to lunch and give them flowers. In Italy, the flower of choice for this is the mimosa. I have in the past cynically speculated that the reason for this choice is that, at least in northern Italy, mimosas are not yet in bloom as early as March 8th, so the flowers must be imported – on March 8th, everybody from street hawkers to greengrocers has little sprigs of mimosa to sell at ridiculous prices.

This year, global warming has foiled the profiteers: our neighbors’ mimosa trees are already in luscious full bloom, perfuming the air with their sweet scent, and enlivening the scenery with feathery foliage and bright yellow blooms like tiny pom-poms.

This is unfortunate for me, because I am dreadfully allergic to mimosa. And someone always gives me some for the Festa della Donna. I gracefully acknowledge (and truly appreciate) the gesture, then get rid of the flowers as quickly as I can. I would prefer red roses and dark chocolate, but I guess that would have been more appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

As with most holidays in this day and age, la Festa della Donna has become commercialized, with bars and restaurants offering what the Brits would call “hen nights” – male strippers, drinks and music, and a fixed menu including a cake called mimosa – a white cake base with lots of whipped cream, decorated with fluffy little yellow balls of something that look like mimosa blooms. (Also not my favorite – give me devil’s food any day.)

What will I do to celebrate this year? Probably what I do on this day every year, and what women mostly do all year round: work. I’m not feeling very celebratory. On top of premature spring allergies, I have my usual drug-resistant long-running sinus infection which refuses to go away after more than month. I’m on my second round of antibiotics now, plus aerosol etc. to try to clear out the gunk. Another effect of global warming (I suppose) has been an unusually dry winter, so Milan’s pollution is worse than ever. Between that and the boss’ cigars, going in to the office has become hazardous to my health.

Mar 9, 2008 – Read something about the origins of La Festa della Donna that I never knew!

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