Baba Marta Day is one of the oldest continuing traditions in Christian Europe.
An early 20th-century Bulgarian story relates the first Martenitsas to the 7th-century. The Battle of Ongal between the Bulgarian Khan Asparuh (the founder of the Bulgarian country) and the Byzantines resulted in a decisive Bulgarian victory. After the battle, the Bulgarian Khan sent eagles with white threads to announce the victory to his main camp. The threads turned bloody during the flight, thus creating the first Martenitsa.
Martenitsas, usually in the form of a wrist band or small yarn dolls are created by combining red and white colored threads and are worn on 1 March and throughout March.
A typical Martenitsa consists of two small wool dolls, Pizho and Penda (Bulgarian: Пижо и Пенда). Pizho, the male doll, is usually white colored; Penda, the female doll, is distinguished by her skirt and is usually red colored.
Traditions states that Martenitsas are given to the ones you care about and you don’t buy it for yourself.
What the colors of the martenitsa stand for?
There are various theories, suggestions, and even several legends about the meaning of the red and white colors which form the martenitsas. Perhaps the most common belief people share, is that red stands for life/birth and white for purity. Combined together they mean newborn and a new beginning.
Another popular explanation is that white stands for wisdom and red for good health, which means that anyone giving you a martenitsa is wishing you both throughout the year.
When to remove my martenitsa?
Martenitsas are worn until a stork, a swallow or a blossoming tree is seen, symbolizing the coming of spring, warmer weather, and well being.
What to do with my martenitsa?
Once you see one of those signs I mentioned above, it is time to leave your martenitsa. But where? The ritual of taking off the martenitsa varies in different parts of Bulgaria. Some people tie the martenitsa on a branch of a fruit tree. Others put it under a stone. You can “find out” how your year will go on if you put your martenitsa under a rock and go back on the next day. The insect that is closest to it will determine the person’s health for the rest of the year. If the creature is a larva or a worm, the coming year will be healthy and full of success. The same luck is associated with an ant, the difference being that the person will have to work hard to reach success. If the creature nearest the token is a spider, then the person is in trouble and may not enjoy luck, health, or personal success.
It is common in the spring to see trees full with martenitsas. Further more, except on the trees, you can find martenitsas in the houses of Bulgarian people. You can also see martenitsas tied to the animals. That will be mainly in the villages.
We gave martenitsas to few foreigners. See what their reactions were in this video clip ⬇️⬇️⬇️
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4 thoughts on “Grandma March Day (Baba Marta): Share a Martenitsa with each other ~ 2 min read”
Thanks for the extra information about Martenitsas here. I think this is really fascinating. I hope it’s not too long before you get to take off your martenitsa, Pavel. I love these long-standing traditions that very old cultures have. I hope that we have our own Baba September looking after us downunder. 👍
Thanks for the comment, Mike. Tell me a long standing tradition in NZ:)
I had never heard of this tradition but it sounds really nice. Great post and great video.
Thanks, Paul 🙂