A few years ago I was introduced to the Bulgarian tradition of Baba Marta. Every year, on the 1st of March, Bulgarians exchange Martenitsi, red and white woollen bracelets and charms which are worn around the wrist or used to decorate the home.
These little lucky charms are given to remind everyone that spring is close and are a symbol of health and happiness and to keep away evil spirits! My favourite of these lucky charms are Pizho and Penda Dolls. Pizho is the male doll in white and Penda the female doll in red. Since the first time I saw them, I’ve loved them!
One of the things I learned was that the tradition of Baba Marta was celebrated in both Bulgaria and Romania, however in Romania, the holiday is known as Martisor. Baba Marta is Grandma March and she is a fierce old lady who stops the spring from arriving with her angry moods. She is a character from old folklore and the story is famous in many parts of Europe.
On the 1st of March my friends from Bulgaria gave me Martenitsi, both the beautiful red and white woollen bands for my wrists and my favourites, the little dolls, Pizho and Penda!
Every year, leading up to the 1st of March, Bulgaria comes alive with red and white colours everywhere! The streets are lined with stalls selling all different types of martenitsi. On the 1st March, everyone exchanges martenitsi and you’ll see adults and children covered in these bracelets and charms which they have exchanged with all of their family and friends. The Martenitsi are worn by everyone throughout March, you remove them only when you see a blossoming tree or a stork as both of these symbolise the first day of spring.
Once spring has begun, and it’s time to remove your Martenitsi, you traditionally hang them outside on a tree. If you visit Bulgaria at the end of March you will see the streets lined with these beautiful charms.