Granny March,1st of March and the Martenitsa

Martenitsa Pijo and Penda for door
In Bulgaria, March 1st is celebrated as Baba Marta Day (Granny March). On this day, people give each other Martenitsa with wishes for health, happiness and luck.
Martenitsa (Martenica, Marteniza, мартеница) is a red and white talisman symbolizing health and fertility..

According to tradition, Martenitsa are always given as gifts to family and friends. Typically, Martenitsa is handmade, and the process is almost like a ritual. While crafting it, you’re supposed to wish good things for the recipients and maintain only positive and happy thoughts. When someone receives a Martenitsa, they are expected to wear it until they spot a stork or a blossoming tree. Afterward, the Martenitsa should be placed on a blossoming tree to symbolize fertility.

The holiday’s roots trace back to pagan times. The red color signifies female health, conception, and birth, while the white color represents the male, strength, and light. Through this constant interplay between male and female, which essentially governs the world, Bulgarian folklore marks the onset of the spring season and a new beginning.

The Martenitsa is also a stylized symbol of Mother Nature. The white represents the purity of melting snow, while the red symbolizes the setting sun, intensifying as spring advances. These two elements, derived from nature, serve as sources of life. They are also linked to the beginnings of male and female, emphasizing the importance of balance in life.

Most of the legends about the origin of the Martenitsa are related to the foundation of Bulgaria and the pre-Bulgarian period. One of them recounts that after a vicious battle in which the khan met his demise, the Bulgarians emerged victorious. They then sent a pigeon to their relatives with white cotton woven on it as a symbol of victory. However, a hostile arrow struck the pigeon, and its blood stained the cotton until it reached the village. The priest interpreted this as a sign of victory achieved through much blood.

The other legend tells that after the victory of khan Asparuh over the Byzantines, he had to thank the god Tangra. According to tradition, the sacrificial pyre had to be lit with a sprig of fennel, which did not grow in our lands. The khan was desperate, and at that moment, a small swallow sent by his sister appeared. It carried a sprig of the herb, tied with red and white cotton for health and luck. Probably, that is why today the greeting cards for March 1st depict a swallow.

Baba Marta is an elderly lady with an extremely changeable character. She has the power to influence the weather, and according to her mood, it can be sunny or cloudy with snow and rain storms. In Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta is portrayed as a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly, reflecting in the unpredictable March weather. When she is smiling, the weather is sunny and warm, but if she gets angry, the cold will linger, and it may even snow. Wearing the red and white colors of the Martenitsa, our predecessors hoped that it would make winter pass faster and bring about spring.

The most typical Martenitsa represents two small wool dolls – Pizho and Penda. Pizho is the male doll, and Penda is the female doll. There are many other variations and forms of these talismans, such as bracelets, necklaces, tassels, pompons, balls, squares, and human or animal figures.
Nowadays, making Martenitsa is considered a true art, and there are many different types.

Wish your family and friends health, happiness and luck by giving them as a present traditional Bulgarian Souvenir – Martenitsa.

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