That can only mean one thing: throughout the day everyone in Bulgaria will be happily exchanging martenitsi and wishing each other Happy Baba Marta or in Bulgarian Chestita Baba Marta. I love this tradition. I’ve never seen another holiday in Bulgaria that produces such joy throughout the day. I love it a lot in fact. Last year I gave to my friends and family more then a 100 martenitsi.
However it’s not just the martenitsi that make me like this holiday so much. Before I tell you why I love this holiday and especially the red and white boy and girl Piju and Panda, so cute, let me tell you more about the folklore behind the holiday!
There are various theories and suggestions (even several legends, involving real historical figures) about the symbolism of these two particular colors – red & white, from which Martenitsa are made. An obvious explanation and perhaps a common belief people share, is that “red” stands for “life/birth” and “white” denotes “anew/on clear grounds”. Combined together, they mean “newborn”, “rebirth”, “a new beginning”; a celebration of Life and Survival. Another popular explanation is that white stands for wisdom and red for good health, which means that anyone giving you a Martenitsa is wishing you both throughout the new year.
The tradition of the red and white woven strings that we exchange supposedly dates back to the times of Khan Asparuh. For those of you not up on our Bulgarian history, Khan Asparuh is the man who is credited with the establishment of the first Bulgarian empire and the martenitsi. He was a busy man. Rumor has it he tied two strings one red and one white to his falcon after a battle to signal to his wife that he was still alive. The tradition was born from this…
Story of Baba Marta….
In folklore, Baba Marta is presented as a sister or a wife of the great long-horned beetle (January) and the small long-horned beetle (February). She is always dissatisfied with them – They are either drunk on wine, or they do other harm . The old woman (bride) becomes angry, hence the weather breaks. According to a widespread story, an old shepherd gave rise to her flock in the mountains last March days, thinking that Baba Marta will bestow on her a good time because she is as old as her. Baba Marta became angry and asked her brother (April) to borrow her a few days. April granted her wish and these days are called “borrowed days”, “zaemnitsi”, “few days” in folk tradition. Martha let the strong snows and blizzards that froze the shepherd and her flock in the mountains. Frozen become a pile of rocks that flowed healing…
You can read more about this special Bulgarian tradition at Wikipedia!
Video! How to make a basic martenitsa click here!
May spring find you sooner than later wherever you are.