Baba Marta

Baba Marta (БаБа Марта) is one of the oldest holidays in Bulgaria. It marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated on March 1st. On this day people exchange martenitsa, which are red and white bracelets worn for good luck. The white is a symbol of strength, longevity, the male spirit and sunshine. The red symbolizes the female spirit and is associated with health, blood, conception, birth and fertility. They look a lot like this:

That’s a lie. They look exactly like this. I bought these at the market today for my friends and co-workers (I’ll be buying more. I have more friends than that, I swear!) There are lots and lots of martenitsa vendors everywhere (I didn’t have my camera with me when I was last in Stara Zagora. There was an entire street was lined with them). These bracelets are worn until the first stork or swallow is spotted signaling the beginning of spring. People then take the martenitsa off and tie them around fruit trees or hide them under a rock. The idea behind it is to welcome spring and force the evil spirits away. The ones tied to trees bless them for a bountiful harvest.

However, it is important to note that it is bad luck to give them before the 1st. Doing so curses the receiver and is generally considered bad form. Putting a marenitsa from a cursed person will kill the tree, thus giving you an tool to gauge which of your friendships to reconsider.

All in all, this is one of the most popular Bulgarian holidays. Especially since wearing the martenitsa protects one against diseases, the evil eye and bad luck, and ensures the fertility of one’s livestock, a plentiful harvest and all round prosperity. Plus, wearing martenitsa shows everyone how popular you are. A win-win situation.

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2 Responses to “Baba Marta”

  1. Longanlon Says:

    haha nowadays its mostly about the last thing 🙂

  2. Spring Break « Chronicling Bulgaria Says:

    […] good luck for the year. Outside the compound, the trees were covered in bits of clothing tied like martinitsa. People tied these for good health for whatever body party the cloth […]

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