The first March, everywhere in Bulgaria, for the Baba Marta all Bulgarians wear and offer a martenitsa, a cute bracelet as a lucky door. What’s more about this Bulgarian traditional custom.
The first time we went in Bulgaria, we were really surprised to see many threads and bracelets on the trees in the center of Sofia, in the Parks, everywhere on the trees. As Italian hang their shoes on the electric wires that sometimes find themselves very busy, Bulgarian hang their Baba Marta bracelets on trees and it is pretty nice. In France, we have not this kind of custom and it is always curious and interesting to know what does it mean exactly.
Baba Marta in Southeastern Europe is a traditional Bulgarian, Romanian and Moldovan festival that symbolizes the arrival of Spring. Честита Баба Марта means “Grandma March” in Bulgarian. Baba Marta is the name of a mythical figure who brings with her the end of the cold winter and the beginning of the spring. Her holiday of the same name is celebrated in Bulgaria on March, the 1st, with the exchange and wearing of martenitsi. This bracelet consists of two small wool dolls, Pizho and Penda (Bulgarian: Пижо и Пенда). Pizho, the male doll, is usually predominantly white; Penda, the female doll, is distinguished by her skirt and is usually predominantly red.
You will find only 2 colors for Martenitsa : the white and red, realized with red and white threads in wool, cotton or silk. Sometimes, a small symbol is attached to these threads : heart, letter, flower or, in Bulgaria, the traditional dolls Pizho and Penda, both Martenitsa. The price is very accessible, around 1 or 2 levas but you can find lots with 10 for only 2 levas and easy to get it, sold on stalls everywhere in town and countryside.
Health, prosperity, happiness ! The martenitsi are always given as gifts and have not be bought for oneself (Oups !). The martenitsa are usually offered to loved family and friends, and those people of whom one feels close and to whom one wishes health, prosperity, happiness.
Beginning on the first of March, one or more are worn pinned to clothing, or around the wrist or neck, until the wearer sees a stork or swallow returning from migration, or a blossoming tree, and then removes the Martenitsa. The tradition is that it’s worn around the wrist, on the back of the jacket or in the pocket until the appearance of spring. We get rid of it when the spring’s premises is coming – a stork (we put the martenitsa under a stone), flowering trees (we hang it on the branches) or when the snowdrop appears. We do the same with domestic animals or those of the farm. Several versions explain this custom but we prefer this one : “After a glorious battle, in a tent, khan Asparukh was discussing with his soldiers his relatives and his far away home. Suddenly the traveling pigeon sent by his beloved little is
ter lands tired on his shoulder. He carried on his wing a message in the form of a thread. The wire had wounded the wing of the pigeon and the blood had colored the wire. Khan Asparukh (the founder of the first Bulgarian kingdom in 681) detached the thread and put it on his wrist. All the soldiers did the same. It was March 1st”. Since then, each year Baba Marta with the martenitsa represents health, happiness and happy spring.
More information in French : www.bnr.bg/fr/
Enjoy Baba Marta