Springtime is here! All over the world, various springtime customs and ceremonies are done to mark the end of winter, to welcome in the warmer weather of spring, and to say goodbye to the oftentimes hard winter. In Bulgaria, one of the many ways it is commemorated is by wearing a martenitsa.
A martenitsa is a small adornment made of red and white yarn that is worn by people during the first day of March up until the end of the month. Some cultures choose to wear it up until they see a stork, a budding tree or a swallow, which are all symbols of the new life that springtime brings.
Time to celebrate Baba Marta
Baba Marta is a tradition in Bulgaria to mark the arrival of spring, which is done during the first day of March and remembered all throughout the month. A martenitsa is used as an adornment by the people of Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania during the springtime holiday season called Baba Mara.
In Bulgarian, the word Baba translates to “grandmother”, while Mart translates to the month of March. Baba Marta is often depicted as a cantankerous old lady with rapid mood swings. This is representative of the harsh winter.
Why red and white
The colors of the martenitsa represent good health. As in other traditions, white is seen as the color of purity. On the other hand, the vibrant color red represent life. These two colors remind the people of the cycle of life and the balance of good and bad times.
The Bulgarians also see the martenitsa as symbolic of Mother Nature. The color white is similar to the melting snow. The color red is symbolic of the setting sun. Together, these two colors represent life, as well as the beginnings of males and females.
How it is used
In wearing the martenitsa, the Bulgarians hope for the quick arrival of the spring season so that they can say goodbye to winter. More than one martinetsa can be worn although this should only be purchased as a present for other people. After all, the quick arrival of spring is seen as good luck.
According to this pagan tradition, the martenitsa is given to friends and loved ones as gifts. The receiver then wears the martenitsa on his collar or around the waist, and this cannot be removed until the person sees a tree with blooms or a stork. When this happens, the Bulgarians believe that Baba Marta (winter) will soon leave and that spring can now be expected.
Some people opt to adorn the trees outside their home by tying a martenitsa on a branch of a fruit bearing tree.
This tradition is also celebrated in many other countries, including Albania, Romania, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia and Moldova.