Martenitza – the most typical Bulgarian tradition
Martenitzi. They bring the name of March, in Bulgarian – Mart. Behind the name Mart stands an angry old lady, who changes her mood very rapidly. Her name is Grandma Marta, in Bulgarian – Baba Marta.
Little has changed in the celebration of Baba Marta since those days hundreds of years ago. On March 1, Bulgarians give martenitsi to their family, friends and neighbours. This may be in the form of a simple bracelet of entwined red and white wool or a brooch of red and white wool tassels. Front doors are decorated with enormous red and white pompoms or with woollen dolls called „Pizho and Penda“. Pizho is the male doll and is usually crafted from white wool. Penda is the female, red doll and is distinguished by her skirt. Animals are also adorned with their own special martenitsa. Young people, in particular, can be seen with a wrist full of red and white bracelets.
The ancient roots of this ritual honor the God Mars. He is the God of the spring and later the God of the war. People in the very beginning of our century were fighting a lot. Usually the wars started at the beginning of March. Most of the warriors had to leave their homes. The women were so unhappy, and afraid about the lives of their men. That is why they decided to give to their husbands red and white tokens. They were either red and white cloth strips for the hand. Or small woolen figures of a white girl and a red boy.
The colors represent the blood of the warriors, which their wifes didn’t want spilled. And the white color the pale faces of their women waiting for the warriors to come back home.
The exchange of these tokens was made for two reasons. The first one was to remind the men about their families. The second – to please Baba Marta, so she would not change her mood so frequently. In other words, so that the warriors would not have a lot of problems with the weather and die because of frost.
That was remained almost the same today as it began. Today we give the red and white colors only to please Baba Marta, not to make us cold. In doing so, we hope the spring will come as soon as possible. Once we have those tokens, which we put on our cloths or wrist. We wear them until we see a stork. After seeing this bird, we have to take away the tokens. The stork is showing us that the spring is already here.
In the different parts of the country the process of taking away the token is different. Some ties it on a fruit tree, thus giving the tree the health and luck that we had while having the token. Others are putting it under a stone. The kind of insect we find right next to the token. The next day will determine our health for the rest of the year. If it is a worm, it will be a very healthy year, and we’ll have success. It is the same in with an ant. The difference is that we’ll have to work a lot to reach success. If it is a spider, then we are in trouble. We might not have that luck with health and personal success.
The Martenitza is also an odd artistic image of nature. At that period of the year, nature is full of hopes and expectations. It also symbolized the purity of the white snow going away. And the red settings of the sun becoming more and more intensive with the coming spring. Тhese two natural resources are necessary for the life as well as the male and female spirits.
A decoration with Martenitzi is the most typical and unique Bulgarian tradition. Now the Martenitza symbolized new life, conception, fertility, and spring. This holiday is for joy, health and long life. This Bulgarian tradition is pure and bright like the colours of the Martenitza.