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Martenitsa: Bulgarian festival ushers spring in

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Default profile picture Dana Cojbuc

Translation by:

Sarah Truesdale


Red and white are everywhere in Sofia and even if you have never heard of 'мартеница', and you are in Bulgaria on 1 March, it’s not to be missed

On every corner, pretty figurines made of red and white wool are for sale and being passed around

The Martenitsa festival has ancient origins, going back to the time of the Thracians

Every year on 1 March, Bulgarians put a little red and white pompom around their wrist or on the lapel of their jacket and keep it there all through the month. They don’t relinquish it until they see a sign that announces the arrival of spring: a stork or a swallow. Then they put this baba marta ('Grandma March') under a stone or by a tree coming into bloom

In Bulgarian folklore, 'Marta' is the only 'female name' of a month (unlike April or May in English). The Martenitsa traditionally has a simple form: two little balls of red and white wool. The round shape symbolises eternity and the duality of the two colours represents the renewal of life. Two bells, one masculine and the other feminine

The Martenitsa is a good luck charm which brings good health, prosperity and happiness to those who wear it. Chestita baba Marta! (Happy Grandma March!)

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Translated from Martenitsa: Bulgarian festival ushers spring in