Martenitsa: a Bulgarian way to express spring, health, peace and fertility

in culture •  11 months ago

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If you travel in Bulgaria in March or even early April, you will surely notice a red-white colored ornament called Martenitsa. Two years ago, I travelled to Sofia in April, back then I posted a tree full of Martenitsa on Instagram and asked what this was, but still didn't get the answer. This time, I found Martenitsa again everywhere on the street, finally I had to ask a local guy at a restaurant what it is. He explained me it's for the festival called "Baba Marta" that falls on 1st of March and is celebrated throughout the month. Baba Marta is also known as Grandma March in Bulgaria, who chases away the cold month of February.

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What is Martenitsa?

The name Martenitsa comes from the month "March" and it is normally a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn. The white color is a sign of beauty, purity, innocence and joy. The red one symbolises vitality, health and love, victory, life and courage.

Martenitsa is worn from March 1 until the appearance of the first blooming tree. I first noticed it at the central market hall in Sofia, where they decorate the stairs with huge-sized Martenitsa.

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Martenitsa ornament sold on the market, I saw people wear it around their wrists or pin it on their coats.

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Martenitsa has become part of the Cultural Heritage of UNESCO since Dec 2017. Bulgarian cities seem proud of it, they are hanging the symbol of Martenitsa on the wall of a government building in Sofia.


Symbol of Spring


Normally you wear it on your wrist or pin it on your coat until you see symbols of the spring, such as a stork, or a fruit tree in blossom for the first time in the season. After that, most people tie the Martenitsa on a branch of a fruit or blossoming tree.


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Martenitsa on the trees in a garden in Plovdiv.

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It seems everyone seeing the tree blossoming and tied their Martenitsa here.

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Shapes of Martenitsa


A bracelet has no shape of course, but otherwise Martenitsa usually takes the shape of two dolls, a male and a female, they are called Pizho and Penda (I like their names). Normally Pizho is in white, while Penda is in red, but I've seen reversible colors applied to them too.

Smaller Martenitsa that is to be pinned in the clothes only has a simple shape of two dolls. But there exist also more decorative Martenitsa, with delicately made face and clothes for Pizho and Penda, those are often used to decorate houses, or given as gifts.


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The one on the left uses white color for Penda and white for Pizh.

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Some more creative ones.

I hope you like this ancient tradition of Bugaria. Happy Spring ^_^




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保加利亚的春天护身符Martenitsa

上回来保加利亚的时候,是两年前的四月。那时候春暖花开,我注意到有不少书上还是系着一些红白相间的绳子。当时好奇顺手发了个INS,还问了一下,这究竟是什么东西啊?当然也一直没有得到答案,后来也忘了查。

这次不管在索菲亚还是普罗夫迪夫,真是随处可见这个红白的装饰物。有的挂在树上,有的人,尤其是小朋友戴在手上,别在身上。在保加利亚的第一天早晨在集市还发现了巨大型的装饰物,到午餐的时候,我实在是忍不住了,抓住了餐厅工作的小哥问,这都是干什么啊?小哥笑了,用不上特别好的英语说,这个啊,是我们保加利亚的节日,三月一日,好像其余的小哥也无力解释。多谢了,回到旅店我查了一下,原来是这个节日叫Baba Marta,是保加利亚非常重要的节日,会持续到三月底。 Baba Marta是个传说中脾气古怪的婆婆,她心情好,三月的天气会阳光普照,如果她心情差,即便在三月天还是会下雪。那看着今年这三月飞雪天,她老人家应该心情很不好吧!

三月一日开始,人们就会互赠Martenitsa这个红白毛线编成的小装饰品。保加利亚人民相信白色代表长寿,纯洁和再生,紅色代表力量、健康和生命。Martenitsa戴到看到第一份春色,可以是当鹳鸟出现,或者是果树开花了,这个时候就可以摘下,随手系在果树上。地处东南欧的保加利亚春季来的早,很多果树都开出来了繁花,我看很多人已经把Martenitsa系在树上,但还有人依旧挂在手上,大概觉得今年这变幻莫测的天气,春天还没有真正来临吧。

Martenitsa可以是各种样式,大多数是两个娃娃抱在一起,女娃娃是红色为主,男娃娃是白色为主。非常可爱。别在身上的小号Martenitsa通常就是毛线编成娃娃形状,变化不多。但也有更复杂更大型的Martenitsa,有的甚至穿上了保加利亚的传统服饰,这类主要放在家里或者餐厅作为装饰用。



Joy is a half-time world traveller, half-time Steemit blogger, based in Belgium.

You are welcome to leave any comments below. :P

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Thank you, Joy. I remember those wool dolls as a kid living on the Canadian Prairies. We have a lot of Eastern European traditions but I did not know their meaning. I live in Vancouver now and we get some kind of flower bloom all year round but maybe I will attempt to make one of these next year:) Continued blessings on your travels:)

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Thanks Pryde! I think there are a lot of Eastern Europeans living in Canada? I have some Hungarian friends who have family there. Good to know you guys also have Eastern European culture in Canada, nice!

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I am chalk full of Eastern European heritage. Canada is great that way. We really are a lovely mix of people:) One day you should visit:)

好可爱的习俗,真是读万卷书不如行万里路 :)

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万卷书也很重要 😄

That day was March 1st, the new year in the tradition of those times. They called the white and red threads of yarn after the name of the month March, and named it Martenitsa.

The Martenitsa became a symbol of peace and love, health and happiness. The white color symbolizes purity and honesty in relationships, and the red color means life, passion, and cordiality in friendship and mutual love.

Nice article, @joythewanderer! We have the same tradition in Romania, it's called Mărțișor. :)

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Thanks for coming by, ananuaremere :D
It's good to know you have the same tradition in Romania. I think Bulgaria and Romania both are countries that keep their traditions very well.

The Bulgarian way is the truth. You hit it out of the park with this one. Great pics to go with the post. Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for coming by :p

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Hi joythewanderer
I did not know the story of Pizho and Penda
Realy interesting tradition.
谢谢 and Happy Spring to you

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Thanks for coming by, etn0. :P

有意思 我在那里时都没注意到 哈哈 很多时候当地人对一些民俗都“无力解释” 还得问谷歌 😄

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当地人都太习惯了,哈哈!

That's very interesting to know, each culture has its unique way of representing the Spring season. The Tree decor looks very nice. Sofia also has quite a few high energy center points and this place is also known as one of the important spiritual centers in the world.Did you get to visit any?