International Women’s Day in Georgia

[T:] 8th of March, International Women’s Day, is huge in Georgia. My grandma was just telling me about it…like she parked in a no-parking zone and came out and they were giving her a ticket and she was like, “Guys…it’s the 8th of March” like they let women get away with anything. It’s tradition to give everyone violets, all of the women, and they’re wild violets they’re really pretty but they’re always wrapped with string so it’s very natural, straight out of the earth kind of thing. You have to give every woman you love that…the men particularly.

[Me]: Do you have any idea why, of all the things you could do to celebrate, why violets wrapped with string?

[T]: It’s called აი ია [pronounced “ai ia”] in Georgian, and I don’t know the exact, or if there is even like an exact thing but it’s…from the very beginning we have this book of alphabets…and it’s called აი ია which translates to this violet…or there’s a violet or something, so that’s the first one…it’s like ‘a’ is for apple, ‘b’ is for blah blah, so that’s how they start it with აი ია so it’s just very associated with beginnings and the first bloom of spring and everything new and very pure.

T is a 19 year old USC student who grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia. Prior to the “official” start to the interview, I asked if she had any Georgian-specific festival traditions that she would be open to sharing with me, and the above conversation ensued.

Although most of the world celebrates March 8th as International Women’s Day, these specific modes of celebration speak to the way that Georgian culture views women, and how those views are tied into even the more trivial aspects of their lives. T’s use of the word “pure” is particularly interesting to me; the violet represents women to Georgians because it plays a role in their alphabet book that they’ve known since childhood—it’s the first symbol to appear in the book and thus symbolizes new beginnings and rebirth. This kind of rhetoric has followed women for a long time—throughout many cultures and eras—but the fact that it’s tied to something so important as the alphabet book that every Georgian child has read and will read forever makes me wonder about what other aspects of sociocultural tradition are ingrained in other parts of the Georgian lifestyle.

One other aspect from this interview I wanted to touch on was T’s comment that women can “get away with anything” on March 8th. This very much reminded me of conversations we’ve had in lecture about “ritual inversion” being a big part of a lot of festival celebrations around the world—Halloween and Mardi Gras, to name some of the more well-known examples. On International Women’s Day in Georgia, they essentially participate in ritual inversion; it may not be “official,” but there’s a general understanding that the normal rules of social or legal engagement do not apply to women on this day. As women are more often than not seen as the “weaker,” “fairer,” or “lesser” sex, it’s no surprise that this is one of the ways that IWD is celebrated. It gives women a reprieve from the near-constant pressure and simply being a women in the modern world and allow them a day of peace—and maybe even a bit of mischief.