Today is “Baba Marta Day”. In Bulgaria the 1st of March marks a holiday that welcomes the upcoming spring. “Baba Marta” translates to “Grandma March”, the mythical character who brings the end of the bitter cold winter!
On this day people exchange “Martenitsi”. These are red and white coloured bands or figurines that symbolise health and happiness. The white initially represented human nature and strength, whilst the red showed health and the woman’s nature.
The most traditional martenitsa consists of two small dolls (male and female) and are called “Pizho and Penda” (Пижо и Пенда). Martenitsi come in many other shapes and sizes and people wear them as lucky charms.
The tradition is to wear your martenitsa until you see some signs of spring: blossoming trees or birds like storks and swallows. Some people then tie their martenitsa to a tree – so next time when walking through a park, if you see red and white yarn bracelets hanging on a branch, you know the mystery behind it! It was also believed that people placed them under a rock. They would then come back nine days later to see if there had been any ants; if there were the year would bring lots of sheep. Some people also chose to throw them into the river and let them flow away, representing the troubles of life leaving.
Thanks to Nikolay, who made us all martenitsi to wear today! Let’s see how many of our wishes come true…
Bonus fact: “Mărţişor” is a Romanian holiday that is similar to “Baba Marta”. It’s also believed in Romania that wearing the red and white bands leads to a prosperous and healthy year. The threads are hung somewhere outside the house like a gate to protect against evil spirits. Today the threads are still bought by people for their friends and family to show admiration.
Happy Baba Marta!