Sunday, February 22, 2015

Baba Marta – a Lovely Eastern European Spring Tradition

Baba Marta (roughly translated as Grandma March) is a mythical personification of the month of March in Bulgarian folklore. The mythical Baba Marta is thought to be bad-tempered and moody, thus explaining the rapid weather changes that usually occur in the month of March. It is believed that when Baba Marta is happy and in good spirits, the March weather is warm and sunny, but when she loses her temper, it becomes cold, windy and even snows.

Baba Marta – a Lovely Eastern European Spring Tradition
The Martenici I made for my friends this year
Baba Marta is regarded as a symbol of the transition from winter to spring and the desire for health, fecundity and abundance in the beginning of the new life cycle of nature. In folklore there are many traditions and celebrations which are carried out in order to appease Baba Marta and welcome the coming spring.

The most famous tradition is associated with the 1st of March and it is the custom of giving and wearing Martenici (s.g Martenica). It is popular in the countries of the Balkan peninsula - Bulgaria (my home country), Romania, Moldova, Albania, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia, and has its roots in century-old pagan traditions.

Baba Marta – a Lovely Eastern European Spring Tradition
Pizho and Penda tassels and
a ball of twisted red and white yarn
Martenici are usually strings of twisted white and red yarn, but nowadays there are many variations of Martenici – red and white tassels (sometimes also made to look like a boy and a girl – every child's favourite Pizho and Penda), various woven bracelets, often with blue beads against 'curses', green beads or strings for health, and many more designs. The red color symbolises blood and life, while the white color symbolises purity and happiness.

Baba Marta – a Lovely Eastern European Spring Tradition
Different Martenici strings
Traditionally people give each other Martenici on the 1st of March and wear them every day until 22nd of March – the beginning of spring, or until people see a stork – a symbol of the bringer of spring. The string Martenici are tied around the person's hand, and the tassel Martenici are pinned to the person's sweater or coat. After 22nd March has passed or you've seen a stork (a bit difficult for people living in urban areas :D) the Martenica should be taken off and tied to a fruit-bearing tree for fertility.

What do you think of Baba Marta and the Martenici tradition? Tell me about your favourite spring customs from all over the world in the comments below :)

Stay sunny!
Sevda (WindySunset)

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